Collaboration

Lessons from Egypt: Kill the kill switch and decentralize the Internet

The five-day Internet outage in Egypt has two big takeaways. It's time to shoot down the Internet "kill switch" and we need a new way to decentralize the Internet.

Egypt's five-day Internet blackout has come to an end, but the discussion of the incident has only just begun.

Tech pundit Robert Scoble said, "If Egypt taught the world one thing, it is that turning off the Internet isn't a good way to squash protests."

Indeed, the Egyptian government pulling the plug on the Internet brought significantly more global attention to the protests in Egypt, and the world rallied to give Egyptians some options for getting back on the grid and for allowing their voices to be heard despite the communications disruption.

Still, this kind of outage is not something that we want to see on a larger scale, and since much of the Internet's core infrastructure is located in the United States, there is even greater responsibility in the US to learn some lessons from the Egyptian blackout.

I see two big takeaways here:

  1. US citizens should mobilize to defeat the current government proposal for an Internet "kill switch"
  2. We need to reverse some of the momentum toward a centralized Internet, or at least devise a peer-to-peer connectivity alternative

Let me explain.

Kill the Internet "kill switch"

The so-called Internet "kill switch" bill was introduced in June 2010 by US senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins. The bill wasn't passed into law in 2010, but the legislation -- known in Washington as the "Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act" -- is now making a comeback in 2011.

The idea of the bill is that during a "national cyber emergency" (e.g. Internet-based attacks on the power grid or hacking into US weapons systems) the President of the United States and the Department of Homeland Security would have the authority to shut down private systems across the country, essentially bringing down the Internet to stop the attacks until everything could be secured. (Because the Internet is a distributed network and the US is a huge country, it's unlikely that the government could take down the whole thing but it could knock out a big chunk.)

One of the most distasteful parts of the legislation is the provision that it "shall not be subject to judicial review." In other words, the courts could not take a case regarding the act and then declare the legislation unconstitutional, effectively striking it down. The senators would have only added that provision if they were concerned about the courts eventually killing the whole thing.

Lieberman and Collins have attempted to defend the legislation as "a precise, targeted, and focused way for the president to defend our most sensitive infrastructure," but this entire thing is indefensible -- especially in light of what happened in Egypt this week.

This legislation is enormously over-reaching. It's like sending an aircraft carrier to pick up a fishing boat with a dozen congressmen who got lost at sea.

A much better idea would be for the Department of Homeland Security to develop a serious public/private partnership with the right facilities, service providers, and potential targets. Start running drills and setting up groups of government and private workers who are ready to spring into action in the event of a serious attack. If they have to temporarily shut down part of an Internet pipe to stop an attack, so be it. But, shutting down a large swath of the US Internet in order to block all potential attack vectors would spread fear and panic, cut off people who can potentially help, and, arguably, violate the First Amendment rights of Americans.

What's your take on the Internet kill switch? We're running the same poll as our sister site CNET in order to see where TechRepublic members stand on this issue.

Whatever you think about the kill switch, if you are a US citizen you should contact your representative in Congress to express your views so that your voice can be heard in this debate.

Decentralize the Internet

The other, less obvious takeaway from the situation in Egypt is that the Internet has become centralized into the hands of too few providers and too few data centers. While it is still a decentralized network, the fact that Egypt could so quickly and successfully execute the decision to cut off virtually all Internet traffic within its borders is a sign that the Internet is not nearly as decentralized as it once was. Otherwise, it would be much more difficult, time-consuming, and resource-intensive to knock it offline.

Much of the lore about the Internet's origins as a distributed network designed to withstand a nuclear attack or any other kind of natural or man-made disaster is mythical. However, the early Internet was much more of a peer-to-peer experience -- as much because of limited resources as anything else. Still, as the network grew and took on a larger global character, the benefits of its decentralized origins became apparent, as it became nearly impossible to shut down, even if a bunch of nodes went offline.

This was never more important than in 1991 when Soviet hardliners attempted a coup d'état in Russia and were able to control much of the country and shut off all communications. But, they couldn't find a way to completely shut off the Internet. Through the Internet, people from around the world were able to get messages of support to the Russian protesters who stood up against the hardliners in huge numbers and ultimately caused the coup to fail. It remains the Internet's most heroic moment.

Now, I'm not about to get all sappy and say we need to return to the 1991 Internet. That would be impossible. Today's Internet is infinitely larger, much more robust, and far better funded. That's why it's run by all of these massive, high-powered data centers that are more efficient and more centralized. Our Internet is also much more of a commercial entity because all of this gear is exorbitantly expensive, and there's a lot of money to be made off of selling Internet access. There's no way to put the genie back in the bottle.

But, why can't we create an alternate Internet/networking protocol that would enable us to run a global, ad-hoc, peer-to-peer network using the wireless networking chips in our individual computers and/or our Wi-Fi routers? We wouldn't need to use it all the time -- it would certainly be slower and less reliable than the big Internet (and it would demand certain hosts to essentially share their connections to the larger Internet) -- but in a state of emergency or government crackdown or a coup, it would make it virtually impossible for a government to shut off its citizens from each other and the rest of the world. And, small teams could use it in a pinch when they were gathered together for meetings outside of the office. One member of the team connected to a high speed connection could share it with the rest of the group (this would irk some of the ISPs and wireless providers, but they'll have plenty of money to make off of Internet access in the years ahead).

I realize this is a bit of a crazy idea and there are some technical limitations and caveats, but if peer-to-peer can work for Skype and Bit Torrent, then we should be able to make it work for a global machine-to-machine network -- especially since so many of today's personal computers have so much unused processing power. This would essentially become the Ham Radio of computer networks. All we need is the right set of resourceful, dedicated engineers to take this idea and make it happen. Then, any "kill switch" legislation or attempts at Internet blackouts like the one in Egypt this week would become a lot less potent.

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About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

79 comments
Tech--Republic
Tech--Republic

You can't put a kill switch on an idea. Today's implementation is just that -- one implementation of the more general concept of connecting without depending upon providers - more at http://rmf.vc/Demystify.trc

Repeal
Repeal

Join Downsize DC "Hands Off The Internet" Campaign: http://www.downsizedc.org/etp/campaigns/128 The Internet managed to revolutionize our lives without the involvement of busy-body politicians. Instead, the Internet is entirely regulated by non-State institutions, incentives, and rules. These free market forms of regulation actually work, unlike most State regulations. The politicians find this hard to tolerate, so they're constantly looking for excuses to meddle. If you like what the free market version of the Internet has done for you, then please take action to protect it from State interference.

superfide
superfide

Yes, the killswitch is a bad idea. Yes the bill should die in Congress. But you also need to wake up and realize that the Obama Admin through the FCC is pushing this through with regulation anyway, as part of net neutrality. They tried Congress, and failed. They tried in court, and failed. If they fail through regulation, they will try through the UN. In a free society, nothing in government should EVER be free of any checks from other branches. NOTHING should be exempt from judicial review. Our regulatory bureaucracies are unconstitutional and run largely free of checks and balances. We need to get people in power that will cut the regulators and bureaucracies down to size.

mckinnej
mckinnej

First, a couple of facts. One, the critical infrastructure in the U.S. is on the Internet. In hindsight this was a dumb thing to do, but I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time. Two, the U.S. cannot afford to create an alternative Internet. The government is almost broke now, so there is simply no money to do this. SIPR-net is out there now, but it is used for the transmission of classified data and large parts of it run across public networks. Besides, I don't think the military would be too happy with the local electric co-op running on their secure network. So the U.S. is faced with the necessity of protecting of protecting this exposed infrastructure and some sort of kill switch is one of the few options available. I mean seriously, it would take days for all of them to unplug their connections. An automated solution is really the only effective method. Like any tool this so-called kill switch could be used or abused. For example, a hammer can be used to build a house, but it can just as easily crush your skull. EVERYTHING can be misused. On the surface the objective of this tool is purported to be protection of the infrastructure in the time of war, but the bill appears to be written to suppress free speech or revolution. (Anyone else detect a hint of paranoia?) The key is to make sure anyone who misuses a tool is held accountable. That is critical flaw in this bill. The objective should be to detach the critical infrastructure from the Internet, not to kill the Internet in general. This bill should die and a new one introduced for a kill switch with the proper objectives in mind and the requirement for an after-the-fact judicial review should it ever be used.

robert.nsimbi
robert.nsimbi

Government should work out more proactive mitigation measures than pulling the plug. such measures just give more confidence to the attackers

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

That's some nasty sounding legislation he's cooked up, there. Very authoritarian, and so easy to put to the use of a would-be tyrant. "Not subject to judicial review", that's never a good sign.

jkameleon
jkameleon

Ad hoc networks, mesh achitecture, stuff like that. Initiatives already are out there, for example http://www.openmeshproject.org/ A possible scenario: A protester records something interesting at a demonstrations. Before riot police jumps on him, and confiscates his smartphone, the recording is transmitted to all nearby smartphones via bluetooth. These smartphones store the recording, and retransmit it further, until it reaches WLAN router into the nearest apartment building. Then it starts hopping from router to router, from mobile phone to mobile phone, and router again, until it finally finds a router connected to YouTube, or, better yet, its cummunity supported alternative. WLAN home routers (Linksys & such) are basically a small computers running NetBSD or sometimes Linux. As such, they can be reprogrammed (or even reconfigured) to route net traffic to nearby routers. In rural area, wireless router range can be significantly extended by a couple of 10$ Yagi antenna. Other alternatives include Free-space optical communication, piping, electrical grid, various abandoned cables, and so on. All this must be prepared in advance, of course. Once the internet killswitch is in place & activated, it will be too late.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Make normal internet the same sort of thing as wireless internet. This should kick Canada backwards about 30 years in technology.

shodges119
shodges119

The Internet is not only speech. Many of the control systems for our critical infrastructure lie on the Internet. Does a hacker get protection from "speech" aimed at my computer to get access. During a cyber attack that speech across nations can be the difference between you having power or water. If the Cell system or power grid are being brought down over the internet are we to wait for the red tape to clear before we make the call? Now if I thought for 1 minute the Government would ever silence the US Citizens as a whole with this bill I would be appalled. However, I honestly don't think it could happen. We still vote, we are still in affect "We the People". You would not only have to limit speech but also every inalienable right we have for the worst case to happen. Another option would be to move our critical infrastructure under a Isolated Network controlled by the government. Centralize Water, Gas, AirFlight, Transportation and all other critical services under the governments control. Oh wait darn it, that would be what the Soviets did. Now we are communist and the free market would no longer improve our resources. So where do we go? Do we let private business continue to run Power and such and have a way of limiting the danger if something goes wrong? Or do we let the government run all key infrastructure and let the "Internet" be a place of utopia where free speech and rogue commands run free? Egypt and countries like it are NOT democracies and their people have little to no choice but to riot and protest. Here we vote the idiots out and change the laws to improve society. Any law can be changed and made better if we see an issue arising. But something has to be done in advance of catastrophe. Not wait until it happens and say, well we didn't see that coming when 2 senators obviously did see it coming.

QAonCall
QAonCall

I firmly believe it starts with flawed logic. Because something happened in Egypt...??? The truth is every sane American citizen who is even vaguely aware of the Constitution should be appalled and demand that both Senators be sanctioned and recalled. There is NO place in the Constitution where the right of free speech may be abridged by the government. This has been repeatedly challenged and every single time the SCOTUS has ruled that methods of speech, are speech (ie money, writing etc). Citizens United was about the use of communications as a form of speech, for citizens and companies. The SCOTUS affirmed that collective entities governed by the laws and regulations of the country, as well as individuals are entitled to, and cannot be shut out of the process of expressing speech. The internet is surely the most popular form (method) of speech today. The fastest way to ensure this never happens is have a federal jusge affirm the internet as speech (as I am sure they have already done is obscenity challenges). The Senators should be shamed into retirement...sooner than they plan. If our best defense is unplugging the system, we are already screwed anyways. Geez!

Justin James
Justin James

I forgot to mention, for all intents and purposes, the root DNS servers can be used as a "kill switch", at least as far as the average person's access is concerned. The big boys sometimes have their own in-house root servers. If you look at the root server list (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Root_nameserver) nearly all of them are either US government entities, or entities friendly to the US government that wouldn't take much convincing to come to heel. So the reality is, not only does the US government have a fairly effective "kill switch" already, but it is a GLOBALLY effective one. J.Ja

sissy sue
sissy sue

of giving the power of communication to the masses. And that includes the government of the United States. The internet is one of the most powerful tools ever given to "the common man." We must make sure that the elitists around the world FAIL in their attempts to control it. BTW: Joe Liebermann is an obnoxious weasel.

Whassupwidat
Whassupwidat

Then YOU and people like you, who can't think outside of the Box, or are 'Government Puppets', are the reason we are here, right now... Ther are Basically 3 Operating Systems running 99.97% of ALL Computers in the ENTIRE WORLD (One of which is TOTALLY Open Source, and ACTUALLY probably the more Reliable and Stable of the 3)... The PROBLEM is that 99.97% of the PEOPLE 'using' Computers no ABSOLUTELY Nothing about them, past the On/Off Switch... That you believe that the Internet (at this point), is about an Idea, puts you squarely and firmly in that 99.97%... To say that you can/coulda/shoulda connected, without depending on Providers, may have worked back in the mid-80's, but that Train has LONG SINCE Left the Station... And, again, to 'regain' control, would depend upon that 99.97%, mentioned above, to do the right thing, TOGETHER, at the same time, simultaneously, and they/you wouldn't have the brains/guts/balls, to do it... You CAN NOT, destroy the Infrastructure because it is so 'Intertwined', that it would be like cutting off one's head, because their toe hurts... BUT, the Power Brokers Life Blood is the ALMIGHTY $$$. Do the MATH...

seanferd
seanferd

BTW, you need to read up on the history of the internet. The (non-existent) free market had nothing to do with it until after the fact.

Tsilva
Tsilva

Yes, a very bad idea, the KillSwitch: nevertheless, rather than fighting a tsunami of bad policy, one bad idea at a time, the best way would be for the US to stop electing or putting very extremely stupid people into positions of power. Although stupidity in high places is a global problem, the US suffers from the dubious distinction of exceeding the planetary norms of stupidity-in-high-places by several orders of magnitude.

seanferd
seanferd

No one can have reasonably claimed hindsight for the last ten years. There is no new surprise here. It's like the Y2K bug - everyone knew it was coming, no one did anything to change. "Two, the U.S. cannot afford to create an alternative Internet." No, if it involves a rational defense or helping people, but doesn't include blowing people up, we can't afford it. Trillions for war, but not a penny for defense. "The key is to make sure anyone who misuses a tool is held accountable." When is this going to be put in place? Hasn't happened yet.

jkameleon
jkameleon

It's not about phishing and spam, it's about power.

seanferd
seanferd

No judicial review. The rubber-stamp courts weren't good enough. Then there is always retroactive legalization, so nyah!

sissy sue
sissy sue

who is scared to death of communication. This is the same jerk who wanted restrictions on television programming. I can hardly wait until this POS is no longer holding office.

Justin James
Justin James

... your smartphone to just accept and store incoming data sent by any phone in the area? I don't. I'd be lucky to be able to talk on it, with everything it would be doing, let alone the risk of viruses, illegal content, and such. J.Ja

QAonCall
QAonCall

While interesting, are not valid. If a company use the internet for critical infrastructure, that doesn't empower the government to circumvent the Constitution to 'protect them'. Their protection was sacrificed by their choice. See the laundry list of solutions provided here and other places about infrastructure changes. As for your other concerns or scenarios, the end of the day, these are a collection of 'private networks'. The government does not own them. As for the 2 Senators seeing it coming, well Nastradamus they ain't. Threats to critical infrastructure have been coming since 95/96. The threat of bad things does not justify removing the delivery mechanism. We still have roads, and darn it they are the delivery mechanism for drunk drivers. So are cars! Come on, get serious, fix the problem not the symptom.

seanferd
seanferd

TTLs have to run down on resolvers and in local caches. And many resolvers don't play by the rules and override and extend TTLs. Cached data seems to persist in routers and operating systems long after it should be flushed as well. Then there are other sorts of purposely held cached data, and finally browser caches. And what if domain names aren't necessary?

Ed H.
Ed H.

We don't have the power of communication in the U.S. now? How do you figure that?

Whassupwidat
Whassupwidat

That is the least of our 'worries'. We can shutdown Corporations, by 'shopping' elsewhere. But, we'll NEVER 'Stop' a Government...

jkameleon
jkameleon

People in position of power are very smart at staying there. Policy, which is bad for you is good for them. Strangulation of the internet is one of them. Restricting flow of information makes staying in power easier.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Or do you have to wait for someone to suffer in a way that the supreme court can take the law itself into it's teeth?

jkameleon
jkameleon

Until then- once you've got the regime's hands into your underwear (http://www.annarbor.com/assets_c/2010/11/TSA-Pat-Down-thumb-590x401-62071.jpg ), you shouldn't be too concerned about innocent little annoyances, which might enter your smartphone. Viruses: WLAN routers taking part in mesh/ad hoc/alternative network would keep external and internal traffic strictly separated. LAN would still be encrypted the same way it's encrypted now. External data would just be routed through. They would enter LAN the same way as they are entering now, through firewall, antivirus program, etc. The same principle would apply for traffic routed through mobile phones too. Illegal content: Legality is pretty much non-issue. Non-detectability (traffic between WLAN routers is not easy to eavesdrop, let alone bluetooth) and/or plausible deniability (WLAN routers, mobile phones etc pass encrypted info) is far more important. Internet killswitch is the sign of regime becoming increasingly more repressive. As regime is shifts into repression, more and more things become illegal. Everybody breaks at least about 10 laws per hour just living the normal life. Possible illegal content on the mobile phone is just one of them. In such situation, politically "hot" content gets you in far worse trouble than child pornography. When shit seriously hits the fan, laws become irrelevant anyway, especially the laws of the regime you're struggling against. In such situation, there is no such thing as illegal content. There is just unwanted content- malware & such.

shodges119
shodges119

And even gave one. Isolate the infrastructure from your "global private networks". And I mean entirely. Authorized people would have access points to administer and support. My only issue with that is that it limits the free market access to the technology. Most inovations come from outsiders, not the establishment. Slam my post if you like. But in the end we need a dependable infrastructure isolated from cyber attack and other issues on the World Wide Web. Is it feasible? I don't know and if it is I can see where it would borderline communism in its results. I can also see prices going through the roof if controlled by the government, much like taxes. It would also lend itself to government controlled power rations in emergency. No one EVER said remove the delivery system. I said create a new one for this soul purpose.

sissy sue
sissy sue

Yes, "the masses" have had the power to be CONSUMERS of communication for quite a while. That's no big deal. How much power have "the masses" had to initiate communication and distribute it to large audiences outside their circle of acquaintances? Very little, until the internet made it possible to anyone to publish his/her ideas, and at little cost. You don't consider this a form of liberation?

Whassupwidat
Whassupwidat

This Administration uses the Constitution as Toilet Paper!!! It means nothing to these ScumBags...

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Setting up a system to screw over the world will not be an "after the fact"-law. Or did you mean about the court kicking it out after the fact? As I understand it, the supreme court doesn't pass law, so the ex postfacto ban doesn't apply to them. But I think there's something wrong if the system allows just any law to be applied without judicial review. It removes the judicial branch from its rightful place - checks and balances go askew.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Many people interpret that to mean it bars [i]ex post facto[/i] criminalization, but not [i]ex post facto[/i] [u]de[/u]-criminalization.

Whassupwidat
Whassupwidat

The Government already has 'control' of Copper, Fiber, and Air Waves, including Frequencies from Hertz to GigaHertz. Don't believe me? Read about the recent incidents (within the past week(s)) regarding the Governments OOPS, when they began 'Testing' some new Electronics, causing ENTIRE Neighborhoods, Garage Door Openers to 'Malfunction', and begin opening/closing for no apparent reason, in Connecticutt, by The Navy, as part of a 'System', they refer to as "Enterprise Land Mobile Radio system, which is used by the military to coordinate responses with civil emergency workers, said Chris Zendan, a spokesman for submarine base in Groton". They are Testing this RIGHT NOW!!! So if it's a Radio System, then it Transmits AND Receives...

Whassupwidat
Whassupwidat

The ONLY reason that that would even be suggested, would be that the Government has developed an 'Information Gathering Bot' that would/could worm it's way into your System, 'Drilling' its way all the way down through your O/S, and BIOS, 'capturing' anything/everything that the Government feels THEY need to know about you (AND ANYONE that you Associate with 'Electronically') via your Address Books and such... REMEMBER, your Phone is now ALSO a Computer (Even the OLDER/SIMPLER Phones), that can get 'hacked' through mid-air. If this gets hold of us, we will NEVER 1.) Know It, 2.) 'See/Feel' It, 3.) Control It, 4.) OR EVER Get Rid of It. PLEASE, PLEASE Understand that this is not 'Paranoia' or 'Conspiracy' speaking!!! Should you have ANY Doubts about the Governments Intentions, I Urge you to Read the 'things' that will become a Part of our everyday lives, the INSTANT, that OBamaCare kicks in!!!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Are you considering the packets passing through your mesh node as stored on your system or are you envisioning each node offering free storage to the rest of the cluster?

Ionne-C
Ionne-C

I've been thinking about a commercial implementation of a mega-XO network that I've been calling a locality network. Something not as full-service as internet, something that works more like DSL technically - though of course not wired. A community would basically set up a server repository and maintain a cache there with backbones distributed to the immediate surrounding communities - maybe as small as somebody's garage. Latency and bandwidth and other XO issues would present a "locality based internet" which is a very interesting opportunity both for survivability and for commercial applications. I'll let you go ahead and comment.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

This gets interesting.. I have both small town and big city in me now (yeah, not special I know.. 'git 'er done' to the rest of ya small town folks). So the big city is covered. Folks start re-flashing home routers with dd-mesh or whatever. Mobile devices would simply incorporate mesh support. Mesh devices, knowing the limits of channel saturation, would manage that just fine within local broadcast distances. This is not an unsolvable problem and one which wireless Hackers (and giften engineers who usually rank within Hackerdom) would be all over. So, urban areas are covered with devices that can be aware of when a channel is supported or on the verge of saturation. (Michael's HAM skills me correct me on this) Let's look at the small town folk. In a small town, you already have the Townies and the Country folk; yes, a five minute bike ride makes someone a Country Folk if it leaves the town limits. For our purposes, lets' say "town" ends and "country" begins when one passes beyhond the range of simple house-hopping through the mesh. I see opportunity for the town based ISP that bridges that mesh for the farm folk. Mesh is slow, modems probably keep up just fine. And, if your down to local mesh networking for lack of broadband solutions, fetching your porntube download in a timely fashion is not likely a concern. In a small town, it's probably going to be a Townie effort the country folk are uninterested in anyhow; lack of Internet does not shut down a farm unless it's an overly modern industrial factory of a thing. Even now, most country folk are not getting mesh network speeds even with what few broadband options exist outside town infrastructure. The devide between Townie and Country Folk remains painfully clear. Actually, now I'm thinking dish antena. If I can fire one of those suckers an hour drive three towns across; I'm pretty sure we can mesh network the sht out of non-townie folk given five minutes or less drive from farm to farm. Now, the legal side; yeah, some bad person may pass data over your node. The law, assuming government ever accepted the lack of control over mesh networks being the norm, would have to change to recognize the difference between data over versus data requested by a node. For lack of goernment acceptance, it may be a citizen action to motivate legal recognition. Heck, being able to detect truly harmful content like childporn passing through my node along with the final destination? With Small Town folk, you might want to hope the local law knows about that destination before the folks do.. but child-porn in the area would be swiftly dealt with. Granted, encryption in transit probably quashes both the vigilanty risk and my being popped for passing harmful content on to it's requesting node. (I hope I can find these threads tomorrow.. very interesting but I'm likely to not keep up with responses until something more effective than email and maxing out my browser RSS features.)

jkameleon
jkameleon

Besides free booze, that's the best way of mobilizing the people's masses. People are, by their very nature, lazy. As long as corporate/government internet functions as it does now, they won't take part in the mesh. If ISPs start to annoy customers with, data caps, content filtering, DRM control, and such, more and more people will risk that 5 minutes to reprogram their old Linksys, and/or $10-$100 for yagi antenna. > I'm not going to get into the social/government stuff above... let's just say that I don't agree with your view of the situation, and leave it at that. Social/government stuff is important design parameter here, and it can't be ignored. In the situation, when the killswitch is contemplated, implemented, and activated, the established social norms probably won't apply anymore. The repression will either cause, or be result of some sort of social collapse, or both- a situation and circumstances most people find very hard to imagine & contemplate. I guess nothing I might write here will change your mind, so I can only urge you to do your own research. If you want to understand (and not necessarily agree with) my point of view, this book would probably be the best starting point: http://www.marxists.org/archive/serge/1926/repression/index.htm It's one of the rare non-BS, practical, experience based texts about the government repression & spying on its own citizens, and how to deal with it. Technology changed a lot since the book was written, but the basic principles still apply. Oh, and... please try to ignore the communist stuff in there. Looking from this angle, it's quite OK if the mesh grows up on pirated & illegal stuff, in the grey area where the law ends. Since the motive behind strangulation of the internet is control of information, the mesh will eventually be outlawed for the same reason. The pretext will be the usual bovis stercus- terrorism, child porn, etc. That way, mesh will be more immune to shutdown attempts when SHTF. > That's a more workable solution. Yeah, for starters. IMHO, spread spectrum radio is definitely the next thing worth trying. Mostly unregulated, and, most importantly, hard to detect if operating below noise level.

Justin James
Justin James

I'm not going to get into the social/government stuff above... let's just say that I don't agree with your view of the situation, and leave it at that. :) But... > There are only a handful of channels for WiFi, and when access points overlap on the same channel, chaos ensues. Look at the issues with the XO computers for examples. I was talking about data routing through overlapping WLAN router signals, not WiFi access points. WLAN home routers could be reprogrammed/reconfigured to route data between neighbouring routers, independently of LAN traffic. That's a more workable solution. It's still only application in urban areas, and is dependent upon a huge percentage of the population being willing to do this, ready to do this, and technically capable of doing this. Remember, the American Revolution was initially supported by about a third of the county. Another third were Loyalists and the rest were just hoping to get back to normal life planting crops and making shoes. Good luck getting numbers like that in the US. J.Ja

jkameleon
jkameleon

Every new thing is messy at the beginning. If this is the only option or the only alternative, however, we'll just have to live with it, and fix it. Linux was a mess at its beginnings, but it grew nonetheless, because it was the only alternative to Windows. The similar logic applies to mesh. > child porn on my phone Awww, c'mon, enough with that already! Child porn is just an internet variant of terrorist threat. Overblown or even phantom menace used as a pretext for increasing control and repression. You can be 100% sure that authorities, who spy on their own citizens, centralize & control flow of information, contemplate internet kill switches etc, have something nasty to hide. They are pretty much like a gang of Fritzls trying keep the fruits of their labour the cellar secret. They probably produce & disseminate child porn in the first place. After all, all paedophile rings consist of powerful political, financial, and religious figures. In any case- if fritzlocracy decides to stick kompromat on you, it will do it, mesh network or no mesh network. They can always plant it on your phone or computer after you get arrested. Or, simply lie about it. With information flow controlled & restricted, converting lies to truth is easy. Taking part in the mesh network can even provide you a plausible deniability in such cases ("it wasn't me, somebody planted it on my phone through the mesh"). > write access to the local system to anonymous nodes. That's a really bad idea Of course it's a bad idea. I guess I wasn't clear enough about that in my previous post. > OK, so they get it in advance... and are all walking around with it on all the time, waiting for the network to be shut off? With political situation bad enough, possibility of internet shutdown, P2P filtering, monthly data caps etc, number of people willig to take part in a mesh would grow. There are also other incentives. For example, http://www.bluetoothflirt.de/ could be a good basis for a bluetooth mesh. > There are only a handful of channels for WiFi, and when access points overlap on the same channel, chaos ensues. Look at the issues with the XO computers for examples. I was talking about data routing through overlapping WLAN router signals, not WiFi access points. WLAN home routers could be reprogrammed/reconfigured to route data between neighbouring routers, independently of LAN traffic.

Justin James
Justin James

... that I want to grant the other folks on the mesh the ability to just stick things like child porn on my phone. Because that's exactly what your proposal is... a mesh network that grants write access to the local system to anonymous nodes. That's a really bad idea, regardless of the context. Think about it... if the network's be shut off, how are these protesters going to get that app? OK, so they get it in advance... and are all walking around with it on all the time, waiting for the network to be shut off? Furthermore, mesh networking is a disaster. There are only a handful of channels for WiFi, and when access points overlap on the same channel, chaos ensues. Look at the issues with the XO computers for examples. J.Ja

shodges119
shodges119

I honestly feel that most inovation comes from competition, as does most progress. The communist system where the government ran Utilities and Rationed Food made them incapable of keeping up with the US on the Industrial level. Government controlled infrastructure would become stagnent. That was the point of view and a bad option. The hope was there would be an intermediate solution.

seanferd
seanferd

How does isolating from the public internet the data networks used by utility companies to control their stuff turn into communism?

Justin James
Justin James

... the American, Chinese, and Russian revolutions occurring just fine without the Internet. J.Ja

bboyd
bboyd

Common Sense would not see distribution in the modern world, to much competition from dancing babies, Facebook and Oprah.