The Rise Of The Decentralized Web Continues

The Rise of the Decentralized Web Continues (LibertyBlitzkrieg, Nov 15, 2013):

I know I must sound like a broken record by now, but decentralization is without question the key to humanity’s future freedom and prosperity on planet earth. The good news is that many of our smartest minds are aware of this and are actively working on solutions at the grassroots level. It goes without saying that the Internet itself is one of the most revolutionary advances our species has ever achieved, and decentralization of this information flow and access must be one of our key objectives, particularly in light of NSA spy revelations.

One of the ways that communities across the world are fighting for ownership of the Internet is through localized meshnets, a topic I covered in my piece back in August: Meet The Meshnet: A New Wave of Decentralized Internet Access.

This has been one of the more interesting themes I have learned about in 2013, and one that is only likely to spread in the years ahead. The New York Times recently wrote an article on it with some great new information. Some key excerpts are below:

Like most people, Kim Thomas has a broadband connection at home that she uses to check email, surf the Internet and stream music and video.

But unlike most people, Ms. Thomas, 56, a program director for a charitable foundation in Portland, Ore., has no monthly bill. All she did was buy a router and rooftop antenna , which not only granted her free access but also made her part owner of the infrastructure that delivers the signal. Total cost: about $150.

Ms. Thomas is a participant in the Personal Telco Project, one of a growing number of community wireless mesh networks in the United States and abroad. These alternative networks, built and maintained by their users, are emerging at a time when Internet service providers are limited in number (some argue monopolistic) and are accused of cooperating with government snoops.

“Our approach is to build our own autonomous system and actually allow people to participate in the Internet rather than participating by proxy through Time Warner, Google Fiber or any other retail I.S.P.,” said Isaac Wilder, executive director of the Free Network Foundation, which within the last year has managed to construct a wireless mesh network that serves about 500 people in Kansas City, Kan.

Perhaps the largest and oldest wireless mesh network is the Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network, or A.W.M.N., in Greece, which was started in 2002 by people frustrated by the slow rollout of broadband in the city. The network now has more than 2,500 users throughout the metropolitan area and neighboring islands and offers speeds in some areas in excess of 100 megabits per second compared with the 4 to 7 megabits per second from typical residential cable and DSL connections in the United States.

Last month, O.T.I. released its Commotion Construction Kit, which provides step-by-step instructions on how to set up a wireless mesh network using open source code and off-the-shelf routers and antennas. The kit is a synthesis of methods learned from the construction of community mesh networks.

Although available to all, O.T.I.’s focus has been providing the instruction to people living in repressive nations around the world, not to mention activists in the United States. Because mesh networks are autonomous from the wider Internet, they cannot be shut down by a government. The networks are also harder to surveil because of the way data pinballs unpredictably between nodes without any centralized hub.

Of course, once you leave the mesh network’s confines and point your browser to Facebook or Google, all bets are off. You’re just as vulnerable to surveillance as anyone else. Like capillaries to an artery, mesh networks may ultimately connect to the Internet through typical residential or commercial Internet service providers like Comcast or AT&T.

But increasingly mesh networks are linking directly to the Internet’s backbone to achieve greater speed and eliminate middlemen gateways and their restrictions. This is the case for the Freedom Network in Kansas City as well as many European mesh networks includingFunkFeuer in Vienna, WirelessAntwerpen in Antwerp and Freifunk in Berlin.

A mesh network in the Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn, for example, maintained its broadband connection after Hurricane Sandy when most major I.S.P.’s in the area went down.

Many mesh networks do not even have written user agreements, though administrators said it was understood that users were not allowed to generate undue traffic or interfere with traffic running through their nodes.

Wait, human beings engaged in voluntary cooperation without a centralized authority making arbitrary rules enforced at the barrel of a gun? That can actually work?

Yes, yes it can.

Full article here.

In Liberty,

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