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Salon: Unchaining the Net

Dec 04, 2000, 21:43 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Damien Cave)

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"Matt Westervelt and three of his friends had tinkering on their minds when they started building their own high-speed wireless network in June. Climbing on the roofs of their Seattle homes, building antennas and trying to make them work with Ethernet protocols sounded like fun. Plus, if the whole shebang actually worked, they figured they'd be able to access their home computer files from the local cafe, play Net-based games while sitting on each other's couches and stream video onto their personal data assistants -- all at speeds of up to 11 megabits per second, far faster than what cellphone operators or other wireless providers offered...."

"Westervelt's crew isn't the only group of geeks who have caught the wireless Ethernet infrastructure bug, who are, as the Wall Street Journal put it, "taking indoor wireless technology outside." Community-based wireless efforts like Guerrilla.net of Cambridge, Mass., Consume.net of London and SFLan in San Francisco are steadily gathering grass-roots power. In Seattle, Westervelt's one-time summer hobby now has a name (Seattle Wireless), a Web site and over 30 participants...."

"Call it "the free-network movement" -- a bubbled-up-from-the-underground effort to spread high-bandwidth wireless connectivity everywhere. In their attempt to create a user-generated alternative to a top-down industry -- in this case, telecom -- initiatives like Seattle Wireless and Guerrilla.net look a lot like the original Napster, the Web itself or the world of free software. The free-software movement, in fact, is a working model for many wireless Ethernet pioneers. Many people involved -- including über-geek Brewster Kahle, founder of SFLan -- view it as free software's newfound twin: open-source development of operational antennas rather than operating systems."

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