US ties local to global to beat Internet censorship

Filed Under (Story Idea) by on 12-06-2011 and tagged , ,

The U.S. government is taking big steps to provide unfettered Internet access to people living under the thumb of aggressive censors.

And the technology has already been proven to help areas in the United States that are under-served by high-speed Internet connections.

Just as the U.S. government finances Voice of America to bring uncensored news to millions of people around the world, this new project seems to one that will have relatively little expense –about US$2 million — but  tremendous benefits.

This project sounds like a great opportunity for local journalists to use as a way to connect an international project — avoiding the censors — and a hot local issue — limited access to high-speed Internet in poorer areas.

U.S. Underwrites Internet Detour Around Censors

One of the devices is very cool: The Internet in as Suitcase.

[The suitcase project] will rely on a version of “mesh network” technology, which can transform devices like cellphones or personal computers to create an invisible wireless web without a centralized hub. In other words, a voice, picture or e-mail message could hop directly between the modified wireless devices — each one acting as a mini cell “tower” and phone — and bypass the official network.

[The suitcase] would include small wireless antennas, which could increase the area of coverage; a laptop to administer the system; thumb drives and CDs to spread the software to more devices and encrypt the communications; and other components like Ethernet cables.

The project will also rely on the innovations of independent Internet and telecommunications developers.

“The cool thing in this political context is that you cannot easily control it,” said Aaron Kaplan, an Austrian cybersecurity expert whose work will be used in the suitcase project. Mr. Kaplan has set up a functioning mesh network in Vienna and says related systems have operated in Venezuela, Indonesia and elsewhere.

Reminds me of the efforts to smuggle photocopy machines part by part into Poland during the days when the Solidarity movement was banned by the then communist government.

The group that put together the Internet in a suitcase have  helped set up wireless networks in Detroit and Philadelphia.

Sounds to me that there are some serious local-global stories that can be done here.

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