One of the things that is so great about the Internet is its ability to bring people together, but often that precise quality becomes a victim of outside influences, whether it’s bad weather breaking cables or oppressive regimes shutting down access. This is why there’s a new movement growing up around the idea of building private Internets, also called mesh networks, which can survive when things get rough.
Commotion Wireless is a package of free open source tools which convert mobile phones, computers and other wireless devices such as routers into mesh enabled products. The idea is once the software is installed, these devices will act like a full blown high speed internet, but without having to use the Internet, a sort of long range WiFi network.
The whole basis of the initiative is to give non-technical people the power to build these community networks as they need them, say for Internet deprived areas or in the case of disaster emergencies, by bolting together simple building blocks of devices.
The networks use simple antennas and Linux powered laptops and routers to build the actual peer to peer network, along with rooted Android phones running compatible software. Of course if the users want full Internet access, rather than just a private net, then somewhere along the line there will need to be a link to a traditional ISP, but apart from that the system can be completely self-contained, and will run at very high speed.
So far the system has been deployed in India and a couple of sites in the USA, while they perfect the technology, with several thousand members enjoying high speed communications at ultra low cost. There’s even a facility to route mobile phone calls through the system to bypass expensive cellular charges, which again could be a huge win for small low income populations.