Open Source! Open Source!By Carmen Nobel, Caron Carlson | Posted 2008-06-02 Print
Telephone and cable companies have overturned some municipal wi-fi projects, but advocates—including congress—are fighting back.
Open Source! Open Source!
Concurrent with any technology initiative, community wireless activists argue that more cities would have the money to foot the bill for a network if they would use open-source software and equipment. That would allow cities to band together and create networks spanning hundreds of miles, because everyone’s equipment would operate with everyone else’s equipment, they argue. Several cities in Europe, including Berlin and Leipzig, Germany, employ open-source mesh networks.
The Community Wireless Network (CUWiN) Foundation has developed multiple iterations of open-source mesh software and is now at work on an open-source “mesh in a box.” And at least one major American city is considering using open-source equipment for its municipal Wi-Fi network.
Boston’s municipal wireless network is in its nascent stages, operating in only a couple of neighborhoods. It currently depends entirely on donated equipment from BelAir Networks, MetroNext and AboveNet. All the vendors understand that donating equipment for a pilot is no guarantee of winning a bid for a citywide network in the future.
“There’s been enough work and enough maturation,” says OpenAirBoston.net’s Reeve. “I have a lot of people on my cabinet who have been involved in the open-source movement.”
Open-source proponents are hopeful that other cities will follow Boston’s lead. “When we’re looking at the development and maturation of open-source technology, it pains me that nobody knows about these options,” says Sascha Meinrath, co-founder and president of the CUWin Foundation and research director for the New America Foundation’s Wireless Future Program. “At the very least, they should know these options exist.”
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