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Frequently Asked Questions

Redirect to new WasabiNet site

  1. Why Wasabi? 
    Because it turns out that cans of wasabi peas make excellent homemade Wi-Fi antennae.  Plus, everyone likes wasabi peas.

  2. Is sharing internet access like this illegal?
    There is no law that explicitly prevents you from sharing your Internet access, although at the same time there also is no law which explicitly allows it.  The law has yet to fully catch up with technology.  However, using someone's private residential Internet service without their permission is sometimes considered illegal (i.e. stealing), but whole point of WasabiNet is to make the service available to cost-sharing and limited free use.  You can't steal something which is being offered to you.  Also, it's important to point out distinctions between simply sharing wireless Internet service (which is what WasabiNet does), and using the service to break into other people's computers (which is illegal) or sharing content illegally.  Please see answers below about privacy and liability issues.

    As this is something of a matter of public debate, I would recommend this article in Ars Technica if you would like to read further.

  3. How fast will the Mesh Network be?
     For the first phase, the Internet connection for each user will be comparable to typical DSL service, 1-3Mbit/s.  However, since the Mesh itself is much faster (approx. 10Mbit/s), and since this a co-operative project with shared ownership, subscribers could opt to upgrade it to better service in the future like 5Mbit DSL, 10Mbit T1, or faster!

  4. Does this violate Terms of Service (TOS) for AT&T DSL service?
    Technically, yes, which is why this proposal seeks to buy Internet access from Speakeasy or any other service provider with explicitly "share-friendly" terms.  Nevertheless, it is unlikely AT&T would shut off your DSL the very instant you subscribed to our Wifi proposal, and even if they did, you would still retain Internet access via other DSL connections within the mesh network.  Also, we would work to switch any existing AT&T customers who opt into our proposal over to Speakeasy DSL service.

  5. As an existing DSL/Cable customer, what incentive do I have to sign on?
    Although this is open to revision based on public input, we envision the fund created by member subscriptions would pay for all but $9.99/mo of your DSL service.  That is, the co-op woull take over your DSL bill and all you'd pay is the standard member subscription.  Plus, you would enjoy these benefits as well...

    • Ability to decide, along with fellow subscribers, how your Mesh network is managed, operated, and upgraded.  For example, should "White Space" devices become a viable (and faster) broadband technology in the next few years, subscribers could decide to upgrade their network to new hardware and get the faster Internet.
    • Ability to decide, along with fellow subscribers, whether you want to decrease the monthly subscription fee if the network proves cheaper to operate than expected, or increase the monthly fee to upgrade the Mesh's DSL connections.
    • Ability to place your own event announcements, community updates, and even ads on the Captive Portal.

  6. Will this slow down my DSL if my neighbor downloads lots of stuff?
    If you imagine the case where 5 people share one DSL connection wirelessly, then yes, large downloads by your neighbor would indeed slow down your internet.  However, Mesh Node Wifi enjoys several advanced features that specifically address this problem...

    The Mesh Itself: the mesh is the composite cloud of routers communicating with each other wirelessly, and they can redirect connections to dynamically ease congestion.  That is, if one DSL connection becomes swamped, the Mesh will direct you to DSL connections that are idle.  This scheme works on the expectation that not all DSL connections within the mesh would be busy at any given time.

    Quality of Service Routing or Traffic Shaping: this is a scheme for routing Internet traffic that gives higher priority to certain kinds of content (Web, email, SSH, Skype) and lower priority to other kinds (file-sharing, bit-torrent, large downloads).  Many newer broadband routers already support this style of routing, and the Mesh would do it on a larger scale to help economize the available bandwidth for all subscribers.

    Furthermore, we can encourage subscribers to take simple steps on their own, like installing the AdBlock plugin for Firefox, to economize on their Internet usage.

  7. Will this project actually remain relevant for 5 years?  Aren't we supposed to be getting free broadband?
    The strongest appeal of this project is that the technology being proposed works right now, as has been demonstrated many times throughout this country and elsewhere.

    Free broadband in the style of free TV and radio broadcast is certainly a dream, and the recent decision by the FCC to approve White Space broadband devices almost certainly paves the way.  Nevertheless, although companies like Dell, Intel, Microsoft, and Google are working to have White Space-capable computers and handsets on the market in 1 to 2 years, no one has yet announced plans to make White Space routers (i.e. what your laptop would actually connect to).

    Furthermore, short of a federally-mandated program for free broadband nationwide (which would take years to implement), no one has yet proposed a viable business model for ubiquitous broadband access that makes it appealing to the companies that actually own most of this country's Internet infrastructure (e.g. AT&T, Verizon, Qwest, Time/Warner, and Comcast).

    Finally, the benefit of a neighborhood scale Wifi-savvy presence like WasabiNet is that would put Benton Park Residents in an ideal position to adopt next-generation broadband technologies as they appear, rather than wait years for the technology to trickle down.  For example, should White Space broadband become truly viable, WasabiNet subscribers could opt to purchase the new equipment to speed up the Mesh or even expand their network beyond the borders of Benton Park West.

  8. Isn't the FCC considering a mandate for Free Internet?
    Yes, it looks like the Federal Government is indeed considering this.  However, please note the above statement that Federally-mandated free Internet access would take years to deploy, and there are lots and lots of issues with the free Internet that have yet to be worked.  For example, would the Internet be available over Wifi, WiMax, DSL, cell phone, or something else entirely?  Would free Internet users have to buy new equipment or even new computers?  Also, would the free Internet service being considered be an ad-supported service with content filtering?  As of yet, this would only be a policy mandate.  It would still be up to the private Internet companies to decide whether the magnitude of ad support and the content filtering demanded is feasible and economical (meaning they may still choose not to build it.)

  9. What about privacy issues?
    The protection of private information on your computer would be similar to what you get when you use Wifi in public places like coffeeshop and libraries. In addition, the WasabiNet routers isolate all users' computers from each other to prevent unrestricted access.

    Nevertheless, part of vision of this project involves subscribers of WasabiNet actively sharing content, e.g. video, pictures, music, and prose, since the speed of the Wifi mesh will be much faster than its Internet connection.  Still, this would be something which subscribers opt into.

  10. Could I get sued/arrested if someone uploads illegal content (child porn, pirated software)?
    Legal action against Internet users only comes after repeated, sustained instances of abuse that have been documented by either law enforcement (in the case of child porn) or by aggrieved parties (i.e. the RIAA and MP3 music sharing).

    Either way, the subscription access to WasabiNet would permit the network operators to ban specific computers that were used to either abuse WasabiNet itself (i.e. download lots and lots and lots of data w/o paying) or to repeatedly upload contraband content.  That this, offending computers could be booted off the network before their persistent abuse created enough of a problem to affect other WasabiNet users.

    Finally, it is important to note that stories about sharing illegal content have been hyped in newsmedia in a way that greatly exaggerates public fear vs. the magnitude of the incidents themselves.  Furthermore, the RIAA in particular is being challenged on the legality of its pursuit of people sharing copyrighted content.

  11. How will subscription payments be handled?
    This is still being worked out.  The simplest approach would be online payment via Paypal or something similar.  However we would like to investigate the feasibility of subscribers paying for their monthly access at local BPW businesses.  For example, imagine getting a barcode fob on your keychain scanned at El Torito Supermarket to pay for each month's access.

    Furthermore, it would be appealing to build the Captive Portal so that people can get limited free access (i.e. basic web browsing and email), and then be asked for subscription payment once they've passed a certain threshold of bytes downloaded.

  12. Will everyone have to use the portal, including paying subscribers?
    No.  Users connecting to the Mesh network will see the Captive Portal before they see anything else if they are using the free service or if they are connecting with a computer not previously used on the network before.  However, we do not see merit in forcing paying subscribers to view the portal, and we are investigating ways to make viewing the portal optional for them.

  13. Are you trying to be an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and compete with AT&T, etc?
    Since we envision this project being a neighborhood co-op rather than a private company, this would not compete with AT&T or other Internet companies in the same way that agricultural co-ops do no compete with tractor manufacturers, food distribution companies, and fertiziler makers.  That is, individual farmers could opt to purchase their tractors, shipment service, and fertilizer directly from the relevant companies for unappealing prices (a la the $50/mo Internet service), or they could negotiate better prices by making bulk purchases through the co-op.

  14. Why $9.99/month subscription charge?  Why not more or less?
    This value was chosen both by evaluating the costs of existing residential Internet services in the St. Louis area, and by calculating how many confirmed subscribers would be needed to sustain a network of 100-200 users sharing 10-20 DSL connections.

  15. Why not use WiMax?  Isn't that supposed to replace Wifi?
    WiMax is indeed a new wireless technology that has many benefits over traditional 802.11g WiFi, including transmission range and speed.  However, WiMax equipment (routers, repeaters, antennae) are still prohibitively expensive as of this writing, and Wimax-capable laptops and handsets are not yet commonplace.  For example, Best Buy does not sell any WiMax devices as of this writing.  For more information, please check out this article that explains both technical and economic advantages of usign Mesh Wifi instead of WiMax.

  16. Who would own this network?
    We envision this being a neighborhood co-op, similar to an agricultural co-op (like Sun-Maid Raisins).  All subscribers would share in ownership of th equipment and the DSL internet connection, and they would have some say on how the network is managed, operated, and upgraded.

  17. How does this compare to residential Internet access from fiber, satellite, cable, etc?
    Pleasecheck out our competitive analysis page.