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WasabiNet at Wireless Summit Vienna!

posted Aug 12, 2010, 6:22 AM by Ben West   [ updated Aug 13, 2010, 9:52 AM ]
Ben West, co-founder of the mesh wifi network WasabiNet, will be presenting this weekend at at the International Summit for Community Wireless Networks (IS4CWN) in Vienna, Austria.  Ben will be co-presenting with Josh King from CUWiN in a panel entitled A Recipe for Digital Inclusion.  This trip was made possible with a generous travel stipend granted to the author by the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative.

During the trip across the Atlantic, Amsterdam greeted the author with a neat wind turbine farm just off the coast, just before he met Vic Hayes on the plane to Vienna (sat right next to him!).

As soon as he arrived, the author found it amazing that the 16Mbit cable broadband connection I'm using at my friends apartment is far more responsive than any of the DSL connections he uses in St. Louis, even when accessing the same, US-based sites! (Except when the cable modem heats up and locks up repeatedly.)

Wireless Summit Opening Plenary: Keynote Speakers

Sascha Meinrath, director of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative, relates his experience working on community wireless nets, and now work as a tireless advocate in DC for community-owned wireless broadband infrastructure. Stress the problem within the US of so many citizens being unaware their country lags so far behind others in terms of broadband speed and accessible pricing.

Sascha: 80% of all $$$ raised by the Wireless Summit goes into travel support for IS4CWN attendants.

The venue, Tech Gate, is a science park owned by the city of Vienna.  Intended as an incubator for tech startups.

Aaron Kaplan, founder of the long-standing, Viennese community wireless network FunkFeuer.

Jim Baller, founder of the US Broadband Coalition, discussed Broadband in America: Greatness or Mediocrity.  Expressed disappointed with the inadequacy of the federal broadband plan recently released by the FCC, saying that a goal of 4Mbit/s speed broadband service as a minimum for all citizens is painfully slow for country like the US.

Ramon Roca, president of the guifi.net Foundation: "from community networks to a global, large scale 'user owned and open last mile.'"  guifi.net is a community wireless network located in eastern Spain, which has grown to more than 15,000 nodes by via a a peer to peer agreement that allows anyone to share their existing Net connection, or to get a connection wirelessly.

In addition, Roman stresses the importance of being religiously, politically, and culturally agnostic when expanding your network, since you otherwise end up unnecessarily excluding people.  The peer-to-peer agreement lays out explicitly the terms of guifi.net, to clear up ambiguities.  This allows guifi.net to be a true public network as laid out by the Wireless Commons Manifesto.

Key points to creating a community network of the scale of guifi.net: Become Sustainable, Foster Cooperation, Formalize Usage Contracts, and encourage ""gLocalization:" combine extensive local and global interactions.

Also, Roman mentions that security in mesh networks must be treated as an end-to-end solution with SSL, VPNs, etc. Encrypted wireless signals are ridiculously easy to break, so things like WPA or WEP can only promise a false hope of ensuring privacy.

Evening Fun


The evening rounded out with a festive gathering at one of the conference organizer's neat Art Deco-era apartment building in the Viennese diplomatic district.

The author, even with his Victorian Era apartment in St. Louis, was quite jealous, since this place also had a pool (described as 'scheisskalt' by the locals) and a industrious DIY outdoor grill operation constructed from materials liberated from a nearby construction site.


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