- WiFi activists on free Web crusade - Nov. 29, 2002 (fwd)

Dave Howe DaveHowe at
Sat Nov 30 12:57:13 PST 2002

Jim Choate wrote:
> On Sat, 30 Nov 2002, Dave Howe wrote:
> The scaling problem is a valid one up to a point. The others are not.
> The biggest problem is people trying to do distributed computing using
> non-distributed os'es (eg *nix clones and Microsloth).
not as such, no. the vast majority of "free internet cloud" users couldn't
care less about computer resources and/or distributed computing - they want
to access websites, ftp servers and read/send their email. with a large(ish)
number of otherwise standalone nodes, you need to worry about addressing
space, routing and (to conserve what little bandwidth you have to the
classic internet) caching. ad-hoc routing also doesn't scale well - so you
get into issues of cells mapping to address ranges and dynamic allocation to
mobile nodes as they move from cell to cell (there are probably better ways
to do that than cells and static ranges, but self-networking swarms blow out
their bandwidth purely negotiating routing long before the amount of traffic
those nodes needs becomes an issue)
its possible I am wrong and there is a wonderful distributed-computing
method to solve these purely network routing problems, but it is news to me.

>> 2. no matter how large the new network becomes, it still needs a
>> link to the "old" network;
> Granted, up to a point. That point is when this network has more
> resources than the 'old' networks. At some point the old networks
> move over and start running from the new one.
that would require that the new network be not only larger (and more cost
effective) but joined up enough (and routing-efficient enough) to see it
become the primary backbone. I am willing to imagine a world where "classic"
isps have a peering arrangement with such cloud networks (giving free access
to their own sites in return for free access to Cloud sites by their
customers) but there is always the prisoner's dilemma (which has been
attempted by so many ISPs lately) of refusing to peer with anyone they think
they can sell transit to instead.

>> almost all ISPs frown on use of home connections for sharing
>> more than just the owner's machines, and many consider using even
>> unmetered in a manner they didn't provision for (ie, using unmetered
>> more than 100 hours a month at the full bandwidth limit) as "abuse"
>> and end the contracts of those who do so. what you would need would
>> be an ISP (or large commercial) style contract with a guaranteeed
>> bandwidth and dedicated ip addresses - which do not come cheap
>> enough to be worth giving away.
> Bullshit on the too expensive to give away.
A typical commercial setup (2mb bandwidth, no ratio, no contention (sharing)
over a dedicated line) is about 700ukp/month. (say about a thousand
dollars). ok, to a large commercial operation that is about the cost of one
employee - probably even less. assuming that it came out of a pr budget
though, that is one less staff member and/or one less campaign a year, for
the (dubious) benefit of whatever pr you could get by donating it. I didn't
say it was too expensive to give way, I said it was too expensive to be
*worth* giving away compared to cheaper pr stunts that don't have to paid
for every year as an ongoing cost (with all the pr loss of having to shut it
down if it becomes too much of a drain)
and that is a *recent* cost - as little as two years ago you could pay that
for a 512K link.

> Irrelevant since there are plenty of commercial feeds out there that
> are not ISP's.
yes, of course there are - but they aren't cheap. the US has a history of
cheap connectivity and free local calls - the uk (along with most of the
rest of the world) doesn't.

> I keep seeing thes ney saying views yet the guerrilla networks just
> keep getting bigger...
There is a ratio thing - anyone with a home broadband connection (which is a
lot more common in london, where most of the free MAN schemes seem to be
concentrated) can afford to carry a few freeloaders on an ad-hoc basis, and
it isn't currently in the interests of the telco monopoly to crack down on
it - it doesn't cut into their core business (selling phone lines and leased
lines) and the traffic blips can be absorbed by the ISP who has statistical
models of how much they can underprovision their total sold broadband and/or
dialup pool bandwidth by without complaints (the monopoly, who is also an
ISP got its sums wrong a couple of years back when it first went unmetered
and the *average* bandwidth allocation during busy times was less than
2Kbits - and that was dialup pool only)
If the number of freeloaders became significant, and more importantly,
became predominantly home users (who want continuous high bandwidth) rather
than passing "war driving" people grabbing a few ks of download for email or
a quick website surf purely because it is cool) then it would both cut into
the bandwidth available to the person paying for it, and the higher average
load curve would alert both the isp and the telco to take a closer look at
why that user is using so much bandwidth.  This is in a world where you are
committing breach of contract to the monopoly telco's isp if you use the
unmetered home service and attempt to use a vpn connection to your
employer's network (which is "business use" and therefore needs a business
dialup account at eight times the cost) and where the unmetered service
drops the connection every two hours to prevent you running servers and
discourage large downloads....
Yes, I would like to see more MAN "guerrilla" networks to compete with the
monopoly telco - both for local links (and a surprising amount of local
traffic could happily stay local - particularly most of the high-bandwidth
games servers) and voice-over-IP. however, that isn't the same as free
internet service, as ultimately someone has to pay for the bandwidth that
leaves the local MAN cloud and travels elsewhere - and given the local
monopoly telco and the big-name so called "tier one" isps would all want
their cut, I can't see free internet ever happening in the UK - however, I
*can* see a high-bandwidth, uk only cloud that the majority of the uk users
connect to, with mail servers and webservers, supplimented by a dialup isp
account for access to the internet as a whole; could that gradually expand
until almost everything you need is reachable via "the cloud"? yes,
possibly, if you are interested only in stuff on your own continent. but I
don't expect to live long enough to see the current hierachical and
big-money dominated internet replaced by an anarchistic global cloud - not
just because of scaling and routing issues, but because the land surface
(and distribution of population centres) is just not continuous enough to
support even a continental cloud in my lifetime using current wifi
technology - and there is little enough incentive for those with a vested
interest in the system remaining as it is now to improve technology until
that *is* possible.

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