Since the internet is threatened with censorship even in the civilized world (such as SOPA), my interest in a free, open and safe network has been increasing. This consists in the idea of "alternative internets", as well as secure connections to the actual internet. By secure connection, I mean a connection which isn't owned by a single person / ISP (that can be shut down by knocking at one door) and which is safe from legal interference and censorship. At this day, such a thing looks difficult to achieve at global scale. But I've seen some interesting ideas for building alternate networks, which I'd love to know more about.
One alternative that's been considered are amateur satellites, which some hacker groups spoke about launching to offer free uncensored internet to the world. I'm not sure how possible and safe they are however. Here are some links:
Still, the best way to do this in my opinion ends at one term: Mesh networking. This consists of many or all users of a network contributing with nodes, making those who connect to the internet also offer a connection to people near them (which is how internet should actually work IMO). Wireless nodes are the first method. One way that's currently undergoing in some cities are wireless nodes being placed in public areas, making sure there's internet in any location. But since they're owned by authorities and have an ISP as an ending point, I doubt their censorship safety. So as I see things, the easiest way would be normal people buying WLAN nodes and hanging them from the window, configuring them to amplify and re-transmit the signal received from other nodes like itself. If enough people in an area do that, each computer can get connected to each other, and establish an own internet or a common method to access the internet.
The second method (which would be an easier alternative at this day) would be computer software using the existing cables and architecture, which would establish access nodes via LAN, similar to a shared internet connection. Basically: If a person that has no internet is connected in a Local Area Network with his neighbors, he could install the software obtaining connections via nodes. Then, his computer would find the nearest neighbor which runs such a node (the fastest) and connect to it. From that node, it would connect to the next fastest node, and so on. The nodes would eventually lead to the ending point, which is the resource the initial computer is trying to access. If that resource is not directly available on a computer connected to the nodes, it could look for a node connected to an ISP, and use its internet connection. Such a method would obviously be slow, and transfer rate could be as bad as a 56k modem. But if aiming for an open network, it's better than nothing.
In either case, my initial dream is that one day, the entire internet will work this way. Because if all computers in a network use each other to get to a resource (and that resource is mirrored in multiple places), having more than one connection path being available, the only way the government could censor it is by either disrupting the signal, or by sending SWAT teams in the house of each citizen. Computers would also choose the best connection, which could rather improve speed in some cases. A team called the "free network movement" seems to be working on this already. Here's an illustration of what I mean exactly:
Overall, my question is: How achievable is this at the current day, on global or at least national scale? Obviously not tomorrow, but in a few years perhaps. Also, do you think it will happen, and someone can implement a new architecture for internet worldwide, that enough people would agree to contribute to? As for a concrete question, I'd like to know if there already is any software which can do what I described (hosting and using nodes to get to a shared resource). At first I thought TOR does that, but TOR nodes can only be accessed over the internet instead. I'd like to hear more about this topic, so let me know what you all think
Edited by hamluis, 07 January 2012 - 09:46 AM.
Moved from Networking to Speak Easy.