Derecho Community Wireless

I came home from the Allied Media Conference to a DC melting in 100+ degree heat and a home without Internet access, courtesy of the now-infamous east coast derecho. Verizon provides our home Internet service, but they did not restore it until this past Thursday – five days after the storm. Happily we still had access thanks to the community wireless network, since the gateway in our part of the network uses Comcast. Comcast could have easily come down during the storm as well, but because the lines were separate, and on opposite sides of the street, people had a recourse. I noticed that the network had much less bandwidth available during Verizon’s outage. We never lost power either, thanks to the power lines being buried under the street.

Despite 70 mph winds and downed trees and limbs, that community-controlled infrastructure never went down. If MtPCWN already had direct chat running on the network, people could have easily logged on and started checking if everyone was ok – even if Comcast and Verizon were both down. As long as folks have Wi-Fi devices with batteries and the routers have power, we can communicate easily during a disaster.

At HacDC the other day, someone suggested that we could fortify some of the routers with backup battery supplies, specifically for use in disaster scenarios. This would be a good idea for a retrofit for a few key MtPCWN routers. When neighborhoods plan out community infrastructure, they could designate a certain number of routers – maybe 40% – as “critical infrastructure,” with the implication that they should be able to run for up to x hours, and connect to other critical infrastructure, in case of a power outage.

Published by

Preston

Agent of Change, Former of Entropy, Seeker of a Stateless World.

2 thoughts on “Derecho Community Wireless”

  1. Hi, there’s an area-wide fiber network called REDI net being built in New Mexico, but they only provide ‘middle-mile’ services. I am trying to start a ‘last-mile’ wifi network to cover my town and others nestled among hills in a long river gorge.

    I was hoping you might be able to give me some pointers on developing a plan for a mesh network to present to REDI net as a proposal. Please email me or give me a ring using the contact info on my web site.

    Thanks!

    –Brock

  2. Hi Brock!

    I encourage you to read these two posts:

    Start With the People: Building a Community Wireless Network in Mount Pleasant: http://oti.newamerica.net/blogposts/2011/start_with_the_people-60935

    and

    Q&A with Bill Comisky: Expanding the Mount Pleasant Community Wireless Network: http://oti.newamerica.net/blogposts/2012/qa_with_bill_comisky_expanding_the_mount_pleasant_community_wireless_network-67410

    and this introductory document I have for the network: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3YVvUQQSjTpTkg5YkxNLXVXR3M/edit?pli=1

    Let me know what your questions are after that. Cheers,

    Preston

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