State of Community Wireless

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Notes! for Open Wireless. Wednesday 4pm session.

Interests: fringe conditions for activism, open wifi as alternative / redundant hardware.

Why OPEN WIFI program: EFF saw trend towards closed or walled gardens, law enforcement is discouraging open wireless.

Part education campaign, part technical project. Making it easy to have a open guest network. No splash page, which allows appliance-style devices to get online.

We think this could encourage privacy, because the assumption that IP address = users breaks down when networks are shared.


There’s some issues:

- Legal risk due to guest networks.

- ISP terms of service: many forbid open wireless.

- Some ISPs sell always-closed routers; FCC regs cannot require the use of carriers hardware.

- Service provider immunity: US, overall, common-carrier rules mean that you are not liable for behavior of traffic on your network.

- As a carrier you may be asked to turn over data; but routers generally don’t have CPU or storage to log much

- Having some process and policy allows for DMCA protections. Having a “policy” that says you’ll ban offenders gives you, in theory, protections even if you don’t ever execute it. Not settled law.

- ISPs we like: Monkeybrains, Sonic.net


Minimal goal is a low-speed but ubiquitous open wifi.

- Firmware that allows open wifi.

- DD-WRT / OPEN-WFT / TOMATO as base layer to emerging set of tools.

- Potentially use a VPN to route open network traffic.

- Traffic neutral, but traffic-shaping per user to prevent overload.


Security concerns:

- You should be using end to end encryption, not trusting your network.

- WPA ain’t that good anyway.

- Anyone on a “closed” network can read you mail anyway (sort of – the key is shared but some protocols use session changes that make it harder to share a key).

- Long term happy would be a new 802.11 protocol that would be open AND encrypted.


Mesh networks are related idea, that we like.

OPENWIRELESS.ORG for more.

There is a tech email list, with lots of enthusiasm (and flame!). IRC channel #openwireless

Kasi tells cools story about open wireless over 30 acres of jungle in Hawaii.

Bruce tells story of potential for a Haight-Ashbury neighborhood networks. Also trying to get fiber to the home. Libraries in SF have open wifi, works well.

Mark made his CLEAR hotspot open wireless, and then CLEAR makes it a portal with a clickwrap.

-Notes by @eylerwerve