HOW PEER-TO-PEER WIRELESS MESH NETWORKS ARE REPLACING CENTRALISED CONNECTIVITY
On 28 January 2011 the Egyptian government, after three days of massive anti-regime protests, mostly organized through social networks, switched off 93 percent of the nation’s Internet. The top-down vulnerability issue of the web was obvious: most individual users are connected to others only through their Internet service provider (ISP). Block this link and Internet access disappears.
An alternative option is beginning to emerge in the form of wireless mesh networks: simple systems that connect end users to one another and automatically route around blocks and censors. Computer scientist Aaron Kaplan is one of the founders of the FunkFeuer initiative, an Austrian wireless mesh networking project that plants WiFi antennae on rooftops, used as a key element in a large ‘liberation technology’ programme by the American government and now part of the EU-funded project CONFINE – Community Networks Testbed for the Future Internet, which has partners such as the Fraunhofer FKIE Institute and Universitat Politecnica Catalunya. At Falling Walls, Kaplan will present the potential and limits of this open- source technology that is realising the dream of a free Internet.