Tirana MESH Network

Hello friends,

The last few months we’ve witnessed a series of events that have, and still are, challenging life as we know it. Following the latest situation generated by COVID-19 and the possible threat of not having internet communication for one reason or another (companies getting out of business, technical issues from high usage, a not well thought governmental decision etc.), together with Redon we were talking about how to counter this what-if. Therefore, we (Redon’s suggestion) are starting this exploratory discussion for the potential creation of solutions that will give us the possibility to exchange information even when there are issues with connectivity from ISPs and mobile providers, which are considered centralised entities. This is the general issue and if you are interested to join the discussion and be part of (hopefully) a solution, join us this Friday at 15.30 CET at the video call discussion we are planning to host.

The link for the video channel will be published here later.

Some initial thoughts and potential solutions include:

Mesh network concept for Tirana area

A mesh network (or simply meshnet) is a local network topology in which the infrastructure nodes (i.e. bridges, switches, and other infrastructure devices) connect directly, dynamically and non-hierarchically to as many other nodes as possible and cooperate with one another to efficiently route data from/to clients. This lack of dependency on one node allows for every node to participate in the relay of information. Mesh networks dynamically self-organize and self-configure, which can reduce installation overhead. The ability to self-configure enables dynamic distribution of workloads, particularly in the event a few nodes should fail. This in turn contributes to fault-tolerance and reduced maintenance costs.

(you can read the full Wikipedia article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesh_networking)

Mesh network in practice (Maybe it is not active anymore)

The Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network (AWMN) is a grassroots wireless community network that was started 2002 in Athens, Greece. It takes advantage of new wireless technologies to connect people and services. In August 2010 the network comprised 1120 backbone nodes and more than 2900 client computers connect to it. More than 9,000 people had have stated their intention to join AWMN in the near future. There is also an association-club named awmn.

List of wireless community networks by region

Internet in a Box

http://internet-in-a-box.org/

Widespread usage of Kiwix

Kiwix is an offline reader for online content like Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg, or TED Talks. It makes knowledge available to people with no or limited internet access. The software as well as the content is free to use for anyone.

https://www.kiwix.org

Hopefully this gathers interest from folks that care about freedom of knowledge and information sharing through decentralized networks.

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Making a genuine Wi-Fi mesh network, which is self-configured automatically, is technically difficult. It seems that OLPC and FreedomBox had such a goal, but they have failed and given up:

It may work, but it doesn’t scale well.

As far as I know OpenWrt supports mesh networks, but it depends on the hardware (not all the devices might be suitable):

Although a mesh network might be difficult, it is often possible to build an AccessPoint for sharing your connection with the people around you. This can be easily done with smartphones and computers. It is also very easy with a RaspberryPi:

For offline content, this might be interesting too:

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Thanks for the insights @dashohoxha. Let’s take these notes and talk about it at the call. For me personally, issues such as decentralised tech are quite close to what free open source communities should be working on. Usually, we (humans) tend not to think of preparations for situations that are not pleasant, but reality bites hard and pandemics or other cases remind us of the importance of our work. Our communities, at a global and (most important) local level have an obligation to work on being one step forward when it comes to preparations fur such cases in the future. Talking about local communities, I will try to co-organise a local community check in next week, where we can talk about how we are coping with the current situation and how we can be useful not only by initiating mesh networks, but even more issues.

ps: I think it’s a good idea to have this discussion in ENG in my opinion because there might be people from around the world that have more experience in this and might want to share some thoughts.
ps 2: në qoftë se ka njerëz (apo robotë) që dëshirojnë ta bëjmë në shqip bisedën, më se OK që të hapim një temë dhe në kategorinë përkatëse të forumit.

R.S

Just a reminder that tomorrow (Friday) is our call about this. We hope to see as many people as possible. If you are going to join would be nice if you wrote here beforehand.

R.S

How will connect for the call? Can you share a link? Thnx

Here is something I use frequently: https://meet.jit.si/OpenLabshackerspace
Talk to you guys at 15.30.

R.S

Some of my notes from the discussion:

  • for the internet to be fully blocked is not easy and a combination of things should occur for this to happen, but I agree with @Orkidea that this might be a possibility.
  • there are some things that can be done in terms of keeping accessibility at knowledge and communications open such as smartphones mobile hotspots, using the tools that are mentioned above and more.
  • important: there is a lot to be done to spread the word about such tools to the general public and we need to put the importance of these issues in the public discourse.

@dashohoxha there are areas where the internet is heavily blocked for example Kashmir (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/14/technology/india-kashmir-internet.html) and I assume there will be areas as well at least in my knowledge.
Would be nice to have the conversation going, but only if there is interest from individuals.

R.S