Inventing the Future

Brothers

I’ve admitted that I didn’t immediately get the point of the One Laptop Per Child project, but now I’m now very excited about the ideas behind this non-profit effort to build a $100 mesh-network computer to be owned by children in the developing world. This essay captures a lot of what I feel and wonder about it, including some fears of dystopian unexpected consequences.

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Inventing the Future

What politician will claim, “I destroyed the Internet?”

I admit I haven’t thought through the implications of the FCC’s recent orders about the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, but I’m pretty damn sure that our leaders haven’t thought it through.

The idea is to create the biggest unfunded mandate in history by forcing all Internet service providers to retool their systems to make it easier for the feds to monitor communications. The cost to universities alone is said to be at least $7B. I don’t know what this does to municipal and home grown mesh network systems. I suppose that the intent is to make it too expensive for anyone but a TelCo to operate anything other than restrictive high-level services. The prophetic David Reed laid out the the issues five years ago, saying it much better than I can.

To this I would add an uneasiness as to what steps a person must now apply, or is allowed to apply, to protect “intellectual property.” We are required to take practical precautions to keep our freedom of privacy else we loose it. If we wreck the Internet in a rush to destroy any practical means of protecting privacy, then who in the end will be allowed to actually claim the priviledge of privacy? Only those large institutions who can afford to run their own government-approved private networks?

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

URGENT: TECH EQUIPMENT AND VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR KATRINA VICTIMS

Please distribute this broadly.

At 2 p.m., I participated in a conference call hosted by the FCC Chief of Staff on how network operators providing service with license exempt spectrum can assist in re-establishing critical voice, data and video service in areas devestated by Katrina.

Part-15.org is taking
the lead in organizing volunteers and donations of equipment from individuals,
WISPs and community wireless networks. Companies such as Cisco and Intel are
also heavily involved.

THERE IS AN URGENT NEED FOR DONATIONS OF EQUIPMENT AND VOLUNTEERS FROM THE TECH
COMMUNITY WILLING TO TRAVEL TO THE AREA EFFECTED BY KATRINA. Interested parties
can volunteer or describe contributions through www.part-15.org (there is a link
on the front page).

There is freely available software and instructions on how to convert a computer and wireless router into a mesh network node from the Champaign Urbana Wireless Network. Their website is http://www.cuwireless.net/

The FCC will remain open throughout the holiday weekend to address the crisis. Coordination efforts are ongoing, but part-15.org hopes to have a preliminary asset list for coordination with federal authorities by Noon Saturday 9/3/05. It would therefore be enormously helpful to hear from people who can donate equipment or time, even if they cannot provide the equipment or time until a later date.

Harold Feld
Senior VP
Media Access Project

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tales of the Sausage Factory: CUWIN Makes Cool Device

The good folks at the Champaign Urbana Wireless Network have just relased a very cool open source program that, when attached to a device built with components you cna buy in any electronic store, become a node in a mesh network. For less that a grand, you can “unwire” a whole neighborhood. Their press release is reprinted below.

The great significance of this from a Sausage Factory point of view is that federal policy in this area is completely unprepared for the ability of a few folks ona shoe string to develop a new, disruptive technology. Spectrum policy is usually about big companies or well financed start ups. The “two guys in the garage” model is not usual in spectrum, because it is so tightly regulated. That unlicensed spectrum and open source free people to do this sort of thing is yet another good argument for more unlicensed spectrum.

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