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What exactly is a mesh network?

There is a good deal of debate regarding the exact definition of a mesh network. A "complete mesh" describes a network topology in which every node in the network is connected to every other node. Some define a mesh as a network in which every node is connected to at least two other nodes. Current networks are typically 'hub and spoke' models that centralize control in the hands of large ISPs and governments. Mesh networks are more widely distributed, decentralizing control and authority and as such increasing the resiliency of the network.

What about privacy and security?

Digital privacy and security are complex topics. Traffic routed over public networks is passed through a VPN (Virtual Private Network) - which essentially means that all traffic originates from the same IP address. This provides some level of security. However, wireless traffic is notoriously easy to sniff, and so we encourage participants on the networks to learn and practice good security practices. To this end, we host monthly cryptoparties on Third Sundays, where anyone is welcome to come and learn how to encrypt their hard drives, mobile devices, email, and chats, along with more general Q&A for anyone with questions and/or answers.

Is it really free?

Given that building a network requires building infrastructure, there are still some costs to running a node. The main cost involves purchasing a router, which runs about $60-80 for a Ubiquiti Picostation or Loco (spreads wi-fi at a radius of up to two blocks) and ~$75 for an additional Ubiquiti Nanobridge, Nanostation, or Loco M5 (creating long-distance backbone links, aka "the spine of the mesh"). See also power costs.

I'm not a techie but I'd like to help - how can I get involved?

There are tons of moving parts to this project, most of them non-technical! We need artists and graphic designers to create flyers and infographics, people teaching classes and workshops on networking, folks mounting nodes on rooftops, community outreach volunteers, bloggers, photographers, documentarians, and everything in between and beyond!

  • See our ongoing page of ToDos for a more comprehensive list of needs!