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Plan B
January 28, 2011 4:59 PM   Subscribe

How to communicate if the government shuts down the Internet, according to: 1) Wired (wiki) 2) PC World
posted by msalt (63 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
Did the Wired writers have less than 15 minutes to come up with this?

Um um, phone, phone yaeh, uuuuum fax, yeah fax is a good one, uuuuummmmm ooo oooh, I got one, CB radio, aaaaand, how about making friends with someone who owns a private network, bingo, couldn't be easier.
posted by the noob at 5:13 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think American will skip the revolutionary fervor that has swept so much of the world if only to avoid digging out our collective fax machines. Ham radios? What are we super nerds now?
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:15 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good thing I didn't get rid of my semaphore tower after we got FiOS installed!
posted by briank at 5:18 PM on January 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


OpenBTS - build your own cellular network using the open source GNU Radio package and USRP. About $1,000 per node but damn if you wouldn't be the coolest kid in town. The blog details projects in Niue and at Burning Man.

Mesh networks, perhaps with microwave backhauls between clusters, are also damn cool.
posted by ChrisHartley at 5:22 PM on January 28, 2011 [16 favorites]


Strategically wheat pasting some eye-catching fliers would be more effective than any of the methods suggested by Wired - WTF?

Maybe I've just missed the dross, but I've come to expect a lot more from them.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:26 PM on January 28, 2011


Ham radios? What are we super nerds now?

As a ham radio operator, I can tell you that I basically quit when I realized that the only people you can talk to are wildly conservative old bigots.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:31 PM on January 28, 2011 [26 favorites]


I plan to stick to established protocol and take to the streets if the government shuts down the Internet. I also plan to loot Wal-Mart for the biggest TV I can carry.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:33 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wolf smoke. Suppose dogshit would do at a pinch, and fitting for so many contemporary regimes.
posted by Abiezer at 5:33 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Serval's mobile mesh is being developed with natural disasters in mind, but it seems applicable here too. Maybe it doesn't get you talking to the outside world (without help) but maybe it gets you talking to each other again, which if you're on the ground is probably more important. Although, I suspect a government keen to suppress its populace won't have any qualms about actively jam the airways when simply pulling the plug fails to work.
posted by adamt at 5:35 PM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


802.11s
OLSR
DD-WRT
OpenBTS
CIA Investments


So that's probably just over the horizon. Guerrilla GSM networks with local Wifi meshes, in conjunction with cheap and performant routers may make it possible to skip at least some of the dependency on easily closed backbones. Bandwidth would go to hell, but if you're just pushing out 140 character messages, you could probably get word out to the world.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:39 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm picturing an ARM based system-on-a-chip with two WiFi radios and a linux distro that boots into a low overhead ad-hoc mode with a DC plug so you can easily rig it up to solar power or a wall wart. With a few hundred of those guys you could cover a small city.

Of course, for the solar to make sense, you'd have to have some sort of thin communication client that could also be powered by the sun... I bet a hacked kindle would work alright.

Anyone have a million bucks to throw in a trust? I could spend the rest of my life very happily working on subversive technology...
posted by notion at 5:43 PM on January 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


Did the Wired writers have less than 15 minutes to come up with this?

Probably, as a matter of fact. Plus they've laid off some of their best writers.
Then again, it's a wiki, so you could fix that. Or, if someone can find a better list, please share. I made this post for the general concept, not the Wired post so much in particular.
posted by msalt at 5:44 PM on January 28, 2011


Carrier pigeon.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:00 PM on January 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


So all these radio based methods of communication: Are they open to signal/frequency jamming?
posted by symbioid at 6:04 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


802.11a, b, and g can all be operated under Part 97 (ham radio) rules instead of Part 15 (unlicensed) rules. In particular, a ham can run a and g up to 1500 W peak emitted power. So that's an option.

Thirding the coolness of OpenBTS.

And then there's APRS, the Twitter of the ham radio world. It's designed around single-packet messages that get digitally retransmitted a couple times in the vicinity of their origin, to provide tactical awareness—where people are, how they're doing, what frequency to use to get in contact with them, what repeaters are around, how to access them, whether they have phone patches or VoIP. That's useful enough for protests and demonstrations, but if you can get out—either via a friendly Internet gateway on the other side of the border, or via ISS or one of the APRS satellites—you can put messages on the worldwide APRS stream and hope that your foreign journalist friends are watching it. Also intriguing: APRStt, base stations that will publish APRS objects on behalf of a user who calls in via DTMF (which in ham-land stands for Touch-Tone, not for Dan Savage's maxim)—so if you're not set up to broadcast packet personally, you can still get in the game. If I were conducting a revolution, I would definitely want APRS on my side.
posted by eritain at 6:12 PM on January 28, 2011 [14 favorites]


Shotgun.
posted by Splunge at 6:13 PM on January 28, 2011


I bookmarked this in case i need it later.
posted by empath at 6:16 PM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


oh, wait...
posted by empath at 6:16 PM on January 28, 2011 [28 favorites]


Samizdat.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:17 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bike
posted by clavdivs at 6:18 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW, sophisticated mesh networks can also have a huge impact outside of the context of government control: you could easily see a network replacing the traditional cell, cable, and fiber networks, if the hardware got cheap enough. Smartphones acting as mesh routers may be the next generation of networking, if we can get past the latency or network overhead issues. I suspect that you'll really need ipv6 behind it, in order to avoid thousand of NATted routes confusing everything.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:21 PM on January 28, 2011


Did the Wired writers have less than 15 minutes to come up with this?

This seems to be the way of web writing - pick a topic, research it for five minutes on Google, spend 10 minutes writing it - instant journalism! I tend to gloss over Wired most days because the quality has really gone down.

My husband is a ham and never hesitates to tell anyone how when a big disaster hits, people will be thankful for the hams. Dunkadunc, I'm sorry to hear that you had to quit the hobby. It is a mostly old, white crowd, but our local hams are so helpful and endearing...nothing satisfies our geeky curiosities like poking around a ham's amateur TV station (yes - it exists). I wonder how helpful amateur TV would be in a case like this.
posted by Calzephyr at 6:24 PM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Semaphore FTW.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:28 PM on January 28, 2011


talking to people at church services
posted by ennui.bz at 6:29 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


/bookmarks this to refer back to if it happens.
posted by Artw at 6:33 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a ham, albeit not a very active one any more. I still have my QRP (10-watt max, I think) HF ham station and portable antennas and two 12-volt batteries, just in case of a major disaster. Now that I've moved back to a land without stupid Vancouver Island property covenants, I might even throw up my first decent HF antenna this spring.

I did stop getting involved in Ham radio due to the politics and racist idiots (sorry to say, but most of the latter had US callsigns) but I just might get back into it one day. Either way, I'm glad that I have some backup communications in case disaster strikes.
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:33 PM on January 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


> I'm picturing an ARM based system-on-a-chip with two WiFi radios and a linux distro that boots into a low overhead ad-hoc mode with a DC plug so you can easily rig it up to solar power or a wall wart. With a few hundred of those guys you could cover a small city.

I'm envisioning something like a predator drone or similar dropping these with small parachutes and the ability to perch and rotate for best solar input. You would have to adjust for 30% or so loses due to the drops, but you could be able to make some sort of emergency instant mesh network available.

Find some giant, google "do no evil", company to back the project, and you can have some doctors with out borders fleets able to deploy these in any region in case of such an event. Of course you would have trouble not being shot as a possible hostile threat by the regime.

A similar solution could work well in emergency situations where cell networks are just swamped entirely. Possibly even have these systems optimized solely for SMS communication.

Riffing on it more, add a second larger pod system that would act as a regional hub with satellite or similar long distant capabilities so you could link pockets of the smaller pods in a region to each other, and then also to either satellite or ham or what have you long range communication networks.
posted by mrzarquon at 6:38 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Human centipede.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:41 PM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Now that I've moved back to a land without stupid Vancouver Island property covenants, I might even throw up my first decent HF antenna this spring

This was our big problem when we were home buying - new neighbourhoods allow shorter towers, if they allow them at all. Towers aren't pretty, but I respect them so much. We have a 2m HF antenna on the roof, but there's something wrong with it, so it's not working at the moment. Good luck setting yours up if you do so 1000monkeys :-)
posted by Calzephyr at 6:46 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


IPoAC
posted by doublehappy at 6:52 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Human centipede.

There's a special place for you in the seventh ring of hell, sir.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:52 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


My husband is a ham and never hesitates to tell anyone how when a big disaster hits, people will be thankful for the hams.

For our local civilian emergency response training here in California, they have a network of firestations and ham operators as a backup for getting info in and out when the next quake hits.

Obviously, though the big problem is going to be having a decent on-the-ground command structure to organize those communications, and, how quickly/effectively outside response bothers trying. (Yes, not ever disaster is going to be Katrina, but I live in Oakland and won't be surprised if we get help days after SF or Berkeley...)
posted by yeloson at 6:53 PM on January 28, 2011


Oh, and for the people in the other thread who were advocating bouncing radio signals off the moon as a means of evading direction finding:

This is what an antenna array for moonbounce looks like. They're effing huge.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:00 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


My husband is a ham and never hesitates to tell anyone how when a big disaster hits, people will be thankful for the hams.

Because there will be plenty to eat?
posted by euphorb at 7:01 PM on January 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


So I finally RTFA, and I'm confused. If access is cutoff, as in Egypt, how would a private ISP, or dial-up work?
posted by gofargogo at 7:11 PM on January 28, 2011


I'm surprised that the articles don't mention one-way radio, ie old-fashioned pirate radio transmitters. Sure, it's one way, but it's also very hard to trace back, and can be used to broadcast the results of, say, the $1,000 per node GNU digital network mentioned.
posted by msalt at 7:19 PM on January 28, 2011


I did stop getting involved in Ham radio due to the politics and racist idiots (sorry to say, but most of the latter had US callsigns)

The US is almost 10 times as populous as Canada, so ~90% of the racist idiots speaking English on the North American airwaves are going to be ours no matter how you slice the ham.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:23 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I went to a hamfest (amateur radio meetup/equipment flea market pretty much) and ran into this:

(Picture of yellow Dodge Charger with "MUCK FUSLIMS" sign)
posted by dunkadunc at 7:36 PM on January 28, 2011


I don't need a covenant to keep me from putting up a bigassed antenna. I just live in one of the most densely populated cities in the northeast and have no yard to speak of.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:37 PM on January 28, 2011


A canned ham will last for years without spoiling.

One way to communicate antigovernment information during a rebellion might be to have rebel sympathizers embedded in the government communications offices who can be contacted by rebels off the air and can send coded messages on the air using steganography. The overt message is a request for citizens to stay home and remain calm until further notice, but what color is the broadcaster's tie? How did she do her hair today? Did she mention her favorite kind of weather? Did she say that it's "two" or "two o'clock" or "two on the dot" or "coming up on two" or "exactly two" or "precisely two" or "just past two" or "two in the afternoon"? When the shit hits the fan, do you have someone in place willing to blurt out a plain message to everyone in the country and then get the hell out fast or die trying?
posted by pracowity at 7:37 PM on January 28, 2011


One way to communicate antigovernment information during a rebellion might be to have rebel sympathizers embedded in the government communications offices who can be contacted by rebels off the air and can send coded messages on the air using steganography. The overt message is a request for citizens to stay home and remain calm until further notice, but what color is the broadcaster's tie? How did she do her hair today? Did she mention her favorite kind of weather? Did she say that it's "two" or "two o'clock" or "two on the dot" or "coming up on two" or "exactly two" or "precisely two" or "just past two" or "two in the afternoon"? When the shit hits the fan, do you have someone in place willing to blurt out a plain message to everyone in the country and then get the hell out fast or die trying?

If you haven't yet read Mother Night, then you really ought to.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:57 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have enough trouble communicating as it is. If they turn off the 'net, I'll be reduced to pointing and grunting.

That might be refreshing, actually.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:40 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


W.A.S.T.E. We Await Silent Tristero's Empire
posted by robot at 9:51 PM on January 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


In particular, a ham can run a and g up to 1500 W peak emitted power. So that's an option.

Thank goodness there's no way to locate unauthorized radio signals!
posted by dhartung at 10:28 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


if the hardware got cheap enough.

"If there never was anything to be shut down in the first place and money was hard to come by"

Mesh Potato

The Mesh Potato is a new device for providing low-cost telephony and Internet in areas where alternative access either doesn’t exist or is too expensive. It is a marriage of a low-cost wireless access point ( AP) capable of running a mesh networking protocol with an Analog Telephony Adapter ( ATA). Wireless APs such as the Meraki or OpenMesh (Accton Mini-router) APs are rapidly gaining in popularity due to their low-cost, relative robustness, and ease of installation. Adding the ability to plug an ordinary telephone into a device like an OpenMesh AP opens up very interesting possibilities.

FabFi

FabFi is an open-source, FabLab-grown system using common building materials and off-the-shelf electronics to transmit wireless ethernet signals across distances of up to several miles. With Fabfi, communities can build their own wireless networks to gain high-speed internet connectivity---thus enabling them to access online educational, medical, and other resources.

(Wired, wanna send me a check for photographs and interviews? ;p)
posted by infini at 10:29 PM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Human centipede

Worst game of telephone, ever.
posted by zippy at 10:36 PM on January 28, 2011


while I agree that pasting up fliers is going to be hugely affective, I just want to shout out to everybody thinking about and making ad-hoc wifi mobile mesh nets available to ever day joes/ahmeds/miklos (and their female counterparts) of the world when the government has censored the 'Net:

you are doing saint's work, humanity thanks you.
posted by victors at 11:17 PM on January 28, 2011


Just fyi, any anti-internet-shutdown projects like OpenBTS could trivially apply for part of the $30 million available in grants from the the U.S. Dept. of State under the Internet Freedom Program.. hell wikileaks could apply. lol
posted by jeffburdges at 12:08 AM on January 29, 2011


Human centipede.

Heh. Only if it works like Bart Simpson's chain of police loudhailers. TESTING!
posted by Sys Rq at 12:50 AM on January 29, 2011


mIRC will be your best friend in this case. Just need any ol connection and make the room.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 2:37 AM on January 29, 2011


Long term the governments can't keep the internet shut down, too much of our economy depends on it these days.

If you want to hedge though, think about all of the SD cards which we'll be removing from the cameras that will be banned in the event of a crackdown... small and easily concealed, and capable of holding millions of PGP encrypted text messages for sneakernet.

Anyone want to work (in the open) on this with me? I think it's important to have the bugs worked out and the system made public. It's the patriotic thing to do, as it supports American Values (You know... actual democracy)
posted by MikeWarot at 4:07 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does this mean my government might un-friend me? I thought we were such good friends.
posted by Postroad at 5:59 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I donno why /. hasn't had any articles discussing these options until now, but apparently :

In reaction to the Egyptian government crackdown on the Internet, the French non-profit ISP French Data Network set up a dial-up Internet access. This way, anyone in Egypt who has access to a analog phone line and can call France is able to connect to the network using the following number: +33 1 72 89 01 50 (login: toto, password: toto).
posted by jeffburdges at 8:12 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


ChrisHartley: "The blog details projects in Niue"

As if I didn't have enough reasons to move to a remote South Pacific island....
posted by namewithoutwords at 8:13 AM on January 29, 2011


This way, anyone in Egypt who has access to a analog phone line and can call France is able to connect to the network using the following number: +33 1 72 89 01 50 (login: toto, password: toto).

That's fantastic news! Now all we have to do is get the word out !

Oh wait ....
posted by Poet_Lariat at 9:11 AM on January 29, 2011


And on a more serious note I think the mesh network idea (with a dB boosting external antenna) might be the best idea to get communication out and about in a small city - although provision would have to be made somehow to avoid detection - a pretty nasty concern .

But none of the ideas I've heard so far really address the idea of getting information to and from the external world - "the whole world is watching" is the effect you want to achieve and the effect that repressive governments want to avoid when something like what is happening in Egypt occurs.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 9:16 AM on January 29, 2011


Was the internet within Egypt working? If your ISP drops BGP routes, could you still theoretically reach other users on the same ISP, or maybe even on other ISPs in the same country?

It's seems like this would be a good advantage for distributed, peer-to-peer social software like Diaspora or OneSocialWeb.
posted by heathkit at 12:51 PM on January 29, 2011


Does this mean my government might un-friend me? I thought we were such good friends.

You were, until you let their Farmville chickens die.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:54 PM on January 29, 2011


Pretty funny, the people bookmarking this and similar pages in case the government shuts down the internet...
posted by chortly at 10:33 PM on January 29, 2011


You know, it's pretty easy to just download the info.
posted by msalt at 9:19 AM on January 30, 2011


But none of the ideas I've heard so far really address the idea of getting information to and from the external world - "the whole world is watching" is the effect you want to achieve and the effect that repressive governments want to avoid when something like what is happening in Egypt occurs.

The trick is to get a relatively robust wireless network where people freely share information. If it's large enough, even using radio jamming equipment, the mesh network will be able to route around damage. If this network extends into a wealthy-ish neighborhood, someone will have a sat connection, or their parents will be important enough to be trusted with the internet, and some young rebel can get the word out. Even more likely, if an inside member of government decides that they have had enough, they can also grab the evidence and send it out by some means.
posted by notion at 5:44 PM on January 30, 2011


An internet activists site called werebuild.eu has been trying to collect information about other international dial-up isps for the people in Egypt.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:43 AM on January 31, 2011


I'd imagine slow packet switched networks like usenet, or maybe freenet, might prove the most useful tool for avoiding detection under a police state crackdown. I'm thinking that, if there were enough mesh network nodes but each node lit up only infrequently, then you could make nodes difficult to locate individually while still passing all the messages throughout the network.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:12 AM on January 31, 2011


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