DIY Internet
June 24, 2011 5:04 PM   Subscribe

"The technology used to create FabFi networks seems like it leaped out of an episode of MacGyver. Commercial wireless routers are mounted on homemade RF reflectors covered with a metallic mesh surface. Another router-on-a-reflector is set up at a distance; the two routers then create an ad-hoc network that provides Internet access to a whole network of reflectors. The number of reflectors which can be integrated into the network is theoretically endless; FabFi's network covers most of Jalalabad."
FabFi is an open-source initiative to bring low-cost, mesh-based networking to remote areas. Using little more than cheap, widely available routers and window screens, they piloted their idea in Kenya and launched JoinAfrica as a free, distributed ISP. In Afghanistan, they've brought the internet to Jalalabad, where One Laptop Per Child is also focusing their efforts.
posted by mkultra (14 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
That's completely awesome.

To the committee that designed 802.11b - you guys rock. You should get goddamn Nobel prizes. Humanity will be dead and gone and our successors will still use 802.11b in ways we can't even imagine.

Although hopefully they will dump IPV4.
posted by GuyZero at 5:21 PM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used this term in a thread about china mieville, and think it pertains here: Scavenge Punk.
posted by symbioid at 5:31 PM on June 24, 2011

This will be even more useful once the powers that be ruin the actual Internet.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:31 PM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Please tell me that one of the guys who came up with this is named FabFi Freddy.
posted by ooga_booga at 5:45 PM on June 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

This will be even more useful once the powers that be ruin the actual Internet.

Sweet Jesus: Gibson's not a scifi writer; he's a prophet.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:47 PM on June 24, 2011

Uh, did you miss the news this week about the virtual japanese pop star? Gibson's from the future and he writes scifi to pay the bills.
posted by GuyZero at 5:47 PM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Neato! It's like the tin-can-and-string phones of the 21st century.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 6:19 PM on June 24, 2011

In rural Northwest Pennsylvania, United States of America, a man watched a Verizion crew run a fiber optic line up the highway past his business, and called Verizion to see if he they can connect him to broadband service - just a little fios would be a real boon for his small tile and flooring installation business.

So far, no luck. Verizon acts like they can't believe he would even ask. He offered to pay them a $1,000 up from to give him a drop, but they can't e bothered. The state government, that is allowing Verizon to use their right of way, just acts confused when the man asks if he isn't part of the public they are supposed to serve. At the local state legislator's office, they hand him a petition form. If he can get 50 of his neighbors to sign on, maybe some company will run a DSL hub out to his neighborhood.

Maybe when these FabFi guys get back from Afghanistan, they can rig soemthing up for him, you think?
posted by tommyD at 6:45 PM on June 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

Ten years ago, people were doing this kind of thing here in the US. What largely killed it was that DSL and cable internet became available to most people. But plenty of community wireless projects are still around, and many of the things they hammered out are what make FabFi-type projects work, for exactly the same reason.

(There are non-wifi community networking projects too, like RONJA.)

It's like the tin-can-and-string phones

More literally than you may think!
posted by hattifattener at 7:05 PM on June 24, 2011

Got an IP address? Can we ping them? The latency might be interesting. Good spot for a TOR entry node?
posted by sammyo at 7:30 PM on June 24, 2011

Maybe when these FabFi guys get back from Afghanistan, they can rig soemthing up for him, you think?

Given that it takes international aid workers just to deliver basic medical care to working Americans, you may be on to something.
posted by Hiding From Goro at 9:16 PM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe when these FabFi guys get back from Afghanistan, they can rig soemthing up for him, you think?

That's already here, and it's better than FabFi if you don't mind throwing money at it. The interesting part about FabFi is the adhockery and the application. Here it's called "fixed wireless" and for rural and semi-rural Internet access isn't unusual; when I was living in Ottawa, Canada a lot of my coworkers lived in small towns surrounding Ottawa that didn't have DSL yet and were using fixed wireless. If you're not on a budget restriction you can get pretty good performance with purpose-built directional antennas.

I don't know PA at all but here's a map of fixed wireless coverage there which may or may not be accurate. Googling "[name of nearest town] fixed wireless" is probably the best bet.
posted by mendel at 7:24 AM on June 25, 2011

FabiFi Fadhi told me everything's fine.
Internet's running, I said "My my!"
Throughput's fast, latency's cool
Our hub's the bomb, here in Kabul

We use Firefox, Safari too,
And Opera on Ubuntu

And we don't stop...we keep on loggin' on...
posted by ShutterBun at 8:27 PM on June 25, 2011

Putting DD-WRT on some Linksys things and hooking up the antenna jacks to larger-than-normal antennas is interesting, but it's not that special...

disclaimer: I lived in Afghanistan a total of more than 3 cumulative years from 2006-2010 and work in IT.

Afghanistan's main network problem is international transit, lack of terrestrial fiber optic cable international interconnection points, and the high cost of satellite access. the fab lab people in jalalabad had a borrowed GATR 1.8 meter Ku band VSAT for a while that was the internet exit point for their network. it was funded by some USAID project.

you can create the best MAN in the world out of tin cans and string but if your metro area network doesn't have a low latency, high bandwidth connection to the outside world, it's not nearly as usable.

afghanistan doesn't really lack for ISPs at this point, many locals have learned how to successfully install a motorola canopy (5.2, 5.4 or 5.7/5.8GHz based) 802.16e-2004 wimax system or similar point to multipoint systems. AWCC, the country's largest mobile phone carrier, is also an ISP.

the problem is IP transit.
posted by thewalrus at 4:28 AM on June 26, 2011

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