So, if you haven’t been paying attention, several African nations have been involved in revolts lately, and their gov. has been fighting them on every front — including the internet. Keeping information from them, and even using the parts that they leave up and working against them in massive phishing schemes, etc…
In the US we are trying to pass several acts and bills which will bring about new eras in censorship, and tracking, including the ability the gov currently has via warantless wiretapping (enabled by the patriot act) to watch where you are by your cell phone’s radio triangulation (yes, even your dumb phone is betraying you); also including the Cyber Security act they’re trying to pass which would allow them to disable the internet for the private sector (basically the president sends out a message to the ISPs saying quit giving internet to your customers, until further notice.)
A great video on WHY they are doing this: http://vimeo.com/6727469 provided by the pirate party.
Currently to get around censorship there are networks such as Tor, and Freenet and ever growing hordes of encrypted VPN software such as SocialVPN and OpenVPN — these all give security or anonymity of some sort (both good things, as they allow innocent people to spread ideas without persecution.) and some of them use p2p mechanisms.
For the future, I would love to see a truely decentralized internet. One that has no IANA, it uses GUIDs (or Guid pairs) instead of IPv6 addresses; I can already hear you screaming: “but then anyone can change their IP address”, and “but they anyone can spoof anyone else!” — yeah it will need some protections built into it, and it will evolve as it grows (hey just like the current internet!) but if driven by open technologies, with no centralized authority, with the goals of anonymity and security in mind, it would be the “checks and balances” version of the internet. Protected much more from abuse.
But wait you say, “that’s just a logical layer that sits on top of the current internet!”
That’s half true. It sits on top of IP — internet protocol. But, your network doesn’t have to be on the internet to use IP. Among many other types of hardware, you can run IP over 802.11 (common wifi) for short range, up to ~100 yards at 600 Mbps (according to wikipedia, I thought it was 300… the 600 might be an uncommon variant. Need to look into it more.)
100 yards… that’s not much. However, enter stage left: Amatuer Radio; technologies have been in development as long as ARPAnet to develop packet switching over the radio. It’s how modern cell phone technology works. The protocol commonly used for this is apparently 802.16. That technology can be extended to HAM radio.
Upon investigation, it appears that currently it’s not too expensive for a small group of hobbyists to setup a small network of repeaters, where each node has about 6 miles of omni-directional distance (or up to 17 miles line-of-sight/single-directional distance.) — and the bandwidth is around 11 mbits (not great, but better than most home internet connections, and much faster than how the internet 1 started out… see: http://www.qsl.net/kb9mwr/projects/wireless/plan.html )
Lets do this shit
I propose we design, build, test/fine-tune, and deploy back-bone “capsules”.
The capsules would preferably be modular so that they could be configured for different situations accordingly; the general purpose configuration would be a medium powered/refurbed linux laptop like device that bridged a long range radio internet connection with a short range common wifi connection — thus adding stability & distance to the network and also giving out free internet in the local vicinity.
The modularity can also include things like solar panels/batteries (preferred! so that power grid attacks, like what is happening in Egypt today, do not affect the infrastructure), wired connections (to bridge with the actual internet), higher quality antennas, and god knows what else.
We likely will not replace the whole internet with these; but if we wide spread them enough, we can do several things: bring down the cost of internet for everyone, increase our nation’s infrastructure, and most importantly increase our personal ownership of said infrastructure, so that it can be democratically managed, making options such as a kill switch, moot.
As for implementation, we should target secluded areas as well as metro ones, as they usually have the worst internet — Duvall, WA for example has a maximum of 1.5 Mbit ADSL connection to the internet, and likely very little air wave pollution, meanwhile, they have an abundance of IT workers (because they are so close to Redmond, WA), who may be willing to run and maintain these APs.
Secondly, getting local small businesses to run these in metro areas might be easier than you think: They can tell their customers that they give free wireless internet to them, and optionally cancel their own service for one that they don’t have to maintain. The long distance wireless WAN aspect is great because it eliminates much of the upfront ISP costs. People could even build their own hardware and resell the network if they like (think about paying $2.50 a month to your apartment landlord for his maintenance costs and sitting almost directly on an 11mbit “backbone” that is interconnected with the actual internet at various places (likely providing bandwidth much in excess of 11mbits.))
Thirdly, we could put these in our cars, etc — adding to the infrastructure, and giving wifi to our mobile devices in our cars… and those near by. Which also gives the added benefit that some devices like iPods (instead of iPhones) are now (with software like Skype) as good as iPhones because the availability of wifi will be much more wide spread (or even modding your mobile devices’ radio drivers to be able to sit right on that network.)
As a layman I am of the opinion that 802.16 may not be entirely suitable for this, but there is something to be said for open standards and readily available cheap hardware. I think it would be great if people could come up with a cheap, easy to build usb device and provide linux support, possibly using an easy to program microcontroller like an AVR and last-gen antennas that you mind fight used at your local second hand store (such as from a DirectTV set, etc…) so that anyone could join the Broadcasted internet network.
Though, I am concerned that with government projects like HAARP, even wireless APs won’t be good enough to “save us.” if they really want to take down the internet. That’s why we need to fight this battle on multiple fronts: 1.) Fight absurd legislation, even if you lose, you made them work for it, fight and fight hard. We the people need to be heard. and B.) setup as many alternate style networks like these as we can, and interconnect them via any means possible, including the wireless WAN space, the wireless LAN space, and especially the wired internet (especially backbones when possible.)
This will increase the decentralizedness of the internet, add to it’s infrastructure, make it more democratically controlled, and harder even for the government of an area to just go and casually “turn it off” — especially if the majority of such points are controlled by solar. They wouldl need to employ active jamming technologies to completely kill the internet, and/or use physical force.
Thanks for reading!