Hi everyone! Becky here. Did you know that a long time ago this Meta Mesh staffer dedicated her life to learning about the politics, history, and culture of Central and Eastern Europe? It’s true. I lived in Olomouc, Czech Republic for several years while pursuing my degrees. I travelled around the continent learning about how societies previously under political occupation persevered. That’s all well and good, you’re probably thinking. But how is this relevant to a Meta Mesh blog post? Everything. Bear with me.
When I first learned about this project half a year ago, I was impressed at what mesh networking could do for developing communities here in Pittsburgh. When the guys on the team would speak about “DNS servers” and “flashing routers,” I would sort of nod and smile…
To this day, I’m still slowly sliding down the technological learning curve like the Banana Splits. However, I did make an important link between wireless mesh networking and my interest in political freedom and free speech – one that ultimately led me to become a permanent member of the Meta Mesh team! I learned that mesh networks aren’t just for communities who don’t have Comcast or Verizon, they can connect people in times of political turmoil and even ecological disaster.
Back during the Cold War, citizens of Central and Eastern Europe who did not want to listen to the state controlled (and heavily censored) news sources could tune into Radio Free Europe, an underground radio station that was initially set up by the American government to gain a following in the eastern bloc countries. It ended up turning into something much more. Those tuning into Radio Free Europe could learn about anti-Soviet protests, dissident movements, and civil rights campaigns - a stark contrast to the heavily censored government programming. This notion of free communication, unfettered by centralized infrastructure, is incredibly salient today.
A week ago, 63 million people in the Indian state of Gujurat were left without mobile Internet service “in light of the deteriorating law and order situation in the state,” according to the local authorities. Local community leaders had been using the social messenger WhatsApp extensively to garner support for their political movement and organize protests. With mesh networking, those without Internet or even in the absence of a cellular network could still communicate with each other, a notion implemented by the political protesters in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Demonstrators during the 2014 “Occupy Central” in Hong Kong, protesters prepared themselves for a possible government shutdown of the Internet by
downloading FireChat, an open source chat application that utilizes mesh networking. Mesh networking, in a way, is the modern-day Radio Free Europe. After all, no matter what year or universe you’re living in, we’ve learned that you...
It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it? Communication on wireless mesh networks have allowed companies like OpenGarden to develop apps like FireChat and technology that can save lives during natural disasters. Faster rescue and relief efforts are made possible by wireless mesh communication in places like the Philippines, a country that is hit by an average of twenty typhoons a year. When flooding and other hazards knock out local telephone and Internet, wireless mesh networks allow people to communicate - and give them ample time to prepare for the latest weather conditions.
In the United States, mesh networking has already been utilized during natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, but it has not been used nationwide. If you are reading this blog, then you probably already know that there are a multitude of other opportunities that mesh networking provides, from voip to e-libraries. We here at Meta Mesh are working hard to bring connectivity to communities that wouldn’t otherwise have access. We want to help bridge both the knowledge gap and the digital divide, but the US government has taken steps to make that more difficult. The FCC has put forth a proposal that would require manufacturers to lock down certain devices to prevent modification if they have a "modular wireless radio.” This would include open source technology on routers (see, I did learn a little bit!) and could drastically change mesh networking in the United States - or bring it to a grinding halt. Open source software doesn’t just help us build the fancy routers that make mesh networking possible, they help bridge the digital divide by bringing technology to the folks that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it.
The FCC is accepting comments for another week at this address (EDIT: comments have closed).
We HIGHLY suggest you add a RESPECTFUL comment. Tell the FCC not to implement rules that take away the ability of users to install the software of their choosing on their computing devices. If there is enough interest from this post, I will gladly write a comment template for the lazy. Let us know!