Off-The-Grid Internet (DIY)

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“And never again have to pay for a service that would be dirt cheap IF it weren’t run by a bunch of profiteering gluttons!” Razor & Blade, Hackers 1995

A community in Athens, Greece, has created its own private Internet in order to combat exorbitant rates and unreliable connections. It is constructed of a network of rooftop wireless antennas to create a “mesh.” Named the Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network (AWMN), data travels through the mesh at no less than 14 Mbs a second, and up to 150 Mbs a second, surprisingly, up to 30 times faster than it would if you were using the local telecom-provider. That is awesome in my book!

Started in 2002, the AWMN has over 1,000 members and is growing. “It’s like a whole other web,” AWMN user Joseph Bonicioli explained. “It’s our network, but it’s also a playground.”

There’s so much local culture they have even programmed their own mini-Google, there are blogs, discussion forums and even a Craigslist clone. The AWMN has become such a major social hub, members even hold movie nights where one member streams the movie for all connected to tune in and watch.

This of course relieves the worry of any government agency having the ability to flip a switch and shutdown service on the network. Of course, the only way to full be off the grid is to run your own power because once the grid is turned off everything goes down.

This of course relieves the worry of any government agency having the ability to flip a switch and shutdown service on the network. Of course, the only way to fully be off the grid is to run your own power because once the grid is turned off everything goes down.

Another plus to using a system like this is the ability to raise it in an area without access to local teleco providers or where services have been knocked out due to natural catastrophes such as floods, hurricanes, or earthquakes. Such as Guifi, Spain, where, in order to address spotty Internet service, one hub at a time, Spaniards built the world’s largest mesh with over 21,000 members.

A couple of years ago during a protest at San Francisco subway stations, authorities shut down mobile service, Hosni Mubarak, ordered the state-controlled ISPs to shut down Egypt’s internet for days to prevent protesters from using Facebook, and China’s Communist Party uses its “Great Firewall” to prevent citizens from reading pro-democracy sites.

Which leads us to another benefit of connecting to a mesh. Digital-freedom activists are making use of mesh tools to prevent continued government snooping. The New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute is developing Commotion—”internet in a suitcase” software that lets anyone quickly deploy a mesh. “We’re making infrastructure for anyone who wants to control their own network,” says Sascha Meinrath, who runs OTI.

Commotion has been tested in American communities, including Detroit and Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, where locals used it to get back online after Hurricane Sandy. Commotion includes Serval, software that lets you network Android phones and communicate directly via wifi without going through a wireless carrier—sort of like a high-tech walkie-talkie network. Serval also encrypts phone calls and texts, making it extremely hard for outsiders to eavesdrop.

Encryption can be broken, and if the mesh hooks up to the regular internet—via satellite, for instance—then you’re sending signals back out to where the NSA and others have plenty of taps. In the wake of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks about the agency’s massive Internet surveillance programs, it is estimated the NSA sticks their nose into 75% of the known world’s Internet and communications networks each day. Of course, they are able to reach these numbers through partnerships with network providers.

A simple fact is becoming very apparent, if you care about your privacy and digital security, the best way to handle it is to build it yourself. Away from the corruptions of large corporations and spies.

Remember, We don’t own the Internet. We’re just trapped in a rental agreement with the companies who do. If you build it, you will control it!

One comment to Off-The-Grid Internet (DIY)

  • shani  says:

    How do I get more information of what I will need for the DIY Off the Grid Internet?

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