June 14, 2002 12:49 PM   Subscribe

Some organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area are dedicated to setting up public wireless access points, avaliable free of charge, which people can connect to with either their exisiting 802.11 NICs in close proximity or with modified wi-fi cards with external antenna connections over distances up to 5 miles away. While these ideas are all fun and exciting, I was reading the SF Bay Guradian's recent article about these networks, I was struck by Tim Pozar's notion of creating these networks without internet connections, just for community lans. I had almost the same idea about a month ago, concerning a kind of mainstream internet alternative with personally run severs and access points, completely off of big ISP pipes, and have been thinking quite a bit about it lately. Now that I've found all this information on it, my only question is: How do we get started and who's up for it?
posted by Hackworth (16 comments total)
How about PlayaNET? It's a wireless community LAN, also with wired booths, at the Burning Man festival in Nevada.
posted by Fstop at 12:56 PM on June 14, 2002

Woo hoo! This makes up for Metricom going out of business (I was a ricochet addict)

I notice Cory Doctorow has some OpenNaps. I might set up one of my own.
posted by vacapinta at 1:06 PM on June 14, 2002

If I actually end up going to BM this year, I'll definetly check it out. I was interested in maybe getting involved in packet radio out there, but this looks like a much better alternative.
posted by Hackworth at 1:12 PM on June 14, 2002

Check out and Both of these are wifi communities, but neither of them (at least, not last I checked) are about providing internet service per se (disclaimer, I have not read the whole site for either org). These two are in your area, Hackworth: and .

Seems to me that Wifi is the way to go for Neighborhood-ANS, or even Local Community-ANS. You could ask the local telco for copper pairs, (they're required to hand them over I think), but it sounds like a lot of work. With the WiFi thing, at least you get to eat Pringles.
posted by daver at 1:19 PM on June 14, 2002

Woo hoo! This makes up for Metricom going out of business (I was a ricochet addict)

So was I, for 5 years - you do know that they're coming back online soon (so they say), and at a little more than 1/2 the old price?
posted by laz-e-boy at 1:56 PM on June 14, 2002

Thanks, daver, but both those networks, as far as I understand, do provide broadband internet access, and I'm concerned with problems that might cause with their isp's not wanting to let them deal out the free connection (as is outlined in the sfbg article linked above). I'm more interested in just skipping that problem altogether and just going on user provided servers.
posted by Hackworth at 2:43 PM on June 14, 2002

Hey Hackworth, you mean the two bay area nets? Yep, I agree. But, they could both be worthwhile models. sounds to me like a better model though.

At Personal Telco they've been working with ISPs who don't oppose with APN sharing, but that's just a side note to their larger community-wan.
posted by daver at 2:48 PM on June 14, 2002

Uh, sorry. "Don't appose with" is a product of afternoon overcaffinization. It should read "aren't opposed to" and APN can be changed to Access Point Sharing.
posted by daver at 3:05 PM on June 14, 2002

As a lurking member of the Seattle Wireless Group, I can say that internet access is a side-effect, not the point, of the effort, otherwise "we" wouldn't be spending so much time on building affordable 10-mile links, and network-management software =p

RBOC's (Regional Bell Operating Company) don't have to just "hand some copper-pairs over", they just are required to make them available for sale, to qualified CLECs (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier)...there was a recent article about one community's multi-year legal struggle with their copper-owner, to get them to turn over unused pairs to them so they could roll their own DSL.
posted by nomisxid at 3:43 PM on June 14, 2002

Say you're a member of an online community which suffers the cost of bandwidth. Day to day operation and continuation of group projects creates increasing demand on an already throttled and blue in the face server. In areas that share several members, they could get together and have a computer with broadband running a script to harvest the site and mirror it wirelessly. Even if just for downloading, this would unburden the main server and increase throughput and improve functionality. [Hackworth - do you have los of hbomb65's roof?]
posted by roboto at 4:23 PM on June 14, 2002

Hippies! This sounds like a great idea but it will only take a few copyright-indifferent, 21st century hopheads, high on open source operating systems to mess up everyone's fun. The "local providers" will end up in the same boat as the ISPs: looking for some way to keep the abusers in check.

But if it can happen anywhere, San Francisco will be the place!
posted by wiinga at 5:48 PM on June 14, 2002

I'm in.

I'm in San Jose. I have an access point, an unused server box and a listserv. I've set up a mailing list called 'CAN' ("Community Area Networks") so's anybody who wants to can continue this discussion in a more permanent forum...

So, howzabout it?
posted by hob at 11:39 PM on June 14, 2002

roboto: where is hbomb65's house? I'm in the haight, top floor apt. with roof access. I can see downtown fine, as well as twin peaks and some of pacific heights. When I can find the time and extra cash, you bet there will be an antenna up there.
posted by Hackworth at 10:59 AM on June 15, 2002

As soon as I get a setup, I've got Rockridge covered.
posted by laz-e-boy at 2:18 PM on June 15, 2002

Similar happenings in Boston: Boston Area Wireless Internet Alliance
posted by espada at 4:32 PM on June 15, 2002

I'm in DeKalb, IL. Nice location in this college town. Anyone close?
posted by schlaager at 6:31 AM on June 17, 2002

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