Santa Cruz Meshnet
A community service mesh network for Santa Cruz neighborhoods
We're currently raising funds to incorporate as a non-profit! Currently $0 of the ~$300 we need!!!
Commodity wireless hardware and new networking technologies are making it possible to provide municipal wireless internet services at a very low cost. The Santa Cruz Meshnet will support the creation of a wireless network as a community service. Through donation, we will work to develop local, free network access and utilities.
The Internet is hierarchical.
Ostensibly, it is a network of equals, "peers" who interconnect and exchange traffic freely. Unfortunately, these equals are Tier 1 telecommunications companies, like AT&T or Level 3 Communications. They are at the top of the Internet hierarchy, and the people who the Internet supposedly exists to connect are at the bottom.
The meshnet is nonhierarchical.
The meshnet is a network of people. It is actually net shaped, with each person's node connecting directly to a few other peers, rather than to something "upstream". The meshnet is built and operated by the people it exists to connect.
Hierarchy is deliberately engineered into the Internet's infrastructure.
If you're reading this over your home network, go have a look at your router--the box that says "Netgear" or something on it, with the blinky lights and the antenna. If you look on the back, it has a few network ports. One of them, the "uplink" port, has a cable that leads up the hierarchy. It goes to whoever you pay for "the Internet", a thing which, Netgear seems to think, doesn't include you. The other ports, and the WiFi antenna, connect down the hierarchy to your individual devices. None of the ports lead sideways. If you want to connect your network to your neighbor's, where would you plug in the cable?
Nonhierarchy is deliberately engineered into the meshnet's infrastructure.
Meshnet nodes can connect to each other over any available means of communication: physical cables, WiFi equipment, or even through the Internet. Nodes automatically determine how to route traffic from point A to point B over any and all links available to them. Any two nodes linked together form a fully functional meshnet, regardless of whether they are connected to the broader whole. All meshnet traffic is encrypted in transit; only the sending and receiving nodes can read it.
Path to Success
The simplicity of mesh networking technologies has allowed the Santa Cruz Meshnet to build a neighborhood prototype from relatively meager donations of bandwidth, hardware, and time. The existing neighborhood prototype builds upon lessons learned from the People's Open Network and combines it with an advanced routing protocol to provide mesh network services.
Building a community-based network requires multiple simultaneous technical, community outreach, and education efforts. These milestones are not meant to be exhaustive of our efforts, but describe how we hope to achieve our goal.
Launch and Outreach
Using experience and technical effort from the People's Open Network, we will create a website that can direct an individual to learn about all aspects of our operations.
We will build relationships with neighbors within wireless range of the existing neighborhood prototype to help the network to grow as hardware becomes available.
To grow our campaign of education and community outreach, we will book talks with local technical groups to encourage technical support for our activities. Our talks will lead individuals to our website, which will allow them both to register interest and become part of our "at-large" mesh network.
Using local announcements, community outreach activities, and social media outlets we will direct interested parties to our website to connect them to opportunities to help including financial donations and volunteer opportunities.
Santa Cruz Meshnet operators will support an initial set of services leveraging cjdns and efforts by People's Open Network in Oakland.
By knocking door-to-door and based upon existing neighbor relationships, we will provide educational materials about our community service for wireless clients and prospective mesh network node operators.
Based on time and materials donated by volunteers, a model for a neighborhood-wide wifi will be made available to the communities between Dakota and May Ave.
"At large" mesh network
While developing educational materials and supporting the roll out of a network based on People's Open Network in the Dakota-May community, we will help to build an "at-large" mesh network. Using advanced routing technology, individuals that are not in range of the mesh network will still be able to access mesh services through their Internet Service provider.
Mesh Network Services (Apps)
Open Source software allows individuals, with the proper time and effort, to offer familiar utilities like auction sites, social networking, and even banking. By combining Open Source software with a community based network, we will provide a model for quick and easy delivery the services a community most desires.
There are many incentives for developing local internet services, which would allow activities to be carried out online without data having to leave the block. Using a democratic process we will allow node operators to express support for the services important to them.
During a yet to be performed site review, we will determine the most expedient way to deliver a high bandwidth connection to the mest network. By building our community of node operators, we will support the access points necessary to reach a location with a fiber optic uplink that will be supported by donation.
By developing a connection from the mesh network to this uplink, we will be able to provide a higher tier of Internet services to the community network. Due to the density of fiber installations Downtown, this will allow us to provide a high speed bridge to "at large" nodes operated there.
Long Range Connections
Santa Cruz' somewhat hilly terrain and rivers provide a beautiful backdrop to our lives, but can complicate rolling out a meshnet. Even though the consumer router technology we use to get from house to house is not effective at long distances or when line of sight is obstructed, we will combine a variety of approaches to provide a high quality community network.
Using long-range extenders and high-speed point to point radios placed on donated rooftop locations, we will be able to directly reach communities across Branciforte Creek and San Lorenzo River.
By modifying consumer hardware and working with experts at People's Open Network, we will deploy pragmatic solutions based on our existing budget and donated electronics.
Education and Empowerment
Our community based model for growing the network to a greater number of clients and operators requires constant education and outreach.
We will facilitate an internship program that will allow donors to fund underprivileged Santa Cruz youth to learn mesh networking basics.
By working with local schools, we will develop curriculum for setting up mesh networks in educational environments. We will provide an "educational kit" for creating a demonstration mesh network for use in Santa Cruz classrooms.
Establishing Lasting Relationships
Our organization will always be democratically run by the node operators and clients, who are the people of Santa Cruz communities. The Santa Cruz Meshnet provides a place for the community and other local interests to find common purpose.
We will build relationships with partner organizations that will uphold our vision of networking as a community service.
We will offer the City a variety of ways to support our efforts and create mutually beneficial relationships with local businesses that share our social charter.
Continued Research and Support
To provide the community with the quality of network it demands, we will continue to evaluate new technologies, perform upgrades, and support the existing network.
SantaCruzMeshnet joined 10 months ago.