News / Science & Technology

Austrian Programmers Build Free Bridge to Internet

Austrian Programmers Build Free Bridge to Interneti
|| 0:00:00
X
August 31, 2012 5:14 PM
A group of computer programmers and hackers in Austria is creating a low-cost way of spreading Internet access across communities. "FunkFeuer" which means "network fire" in German, uses everyday technology to create a wireless network, called a "mesh," that can transmit data from person to person, without involving companies or governments. Rick Valenzuela reports from Vienna.
A group of computer programmers and hackers in Austria is creating a low-cost way of spreading Internet access across communities. "FunkFeuer" which means "network fire" in German, uses everyday technology to create a wireless network, called a "mesh," that can transmit data from person to person, without involving companies or governments.

A group of computer programmers and hackers in Austria is creating a low-cost way of spreading Internet access across communities. "FunkFeuer" which means "network fire" in German, uses everyday technology to create a wireless network, called a "mesh," that can transmit data from person to person, without involving companies or governments.

For most users, Internet access is a utility, like phone service and electricity. Customers pay a company to access the Web through phone service or cable TV lines. But FunkFeuer's equipment on Vienna rooftops is a different.

It provides wireless network access across large areas using the same open radio spectrum as WiFi. But unlike traditional WiFi, responsible for small wireless networks in homes and offices, the FunkFeuer mesh operates over much bigger distances.
 
"You could do the same, of course, in a road, from window to window, and just sort of bounce along the road," explained Aaron Kaplan, a founder of the FunkFeuer mesh network.  "Then you don't need these complicated, big-looking antennas. You can take just small ones just like this and just put it in your window."

The key is to have enough users to put routers and antennas out in the open, so that every user becomes another provider, further extending the network. If one node has access to the Internet, all of the FunkFeuer users on the network do too.
 
Many look at the technology as a way to circumvent government Internet controls.

"It's very hard to shut them down, because you have to go after each single node, every single node owner," Kaplan explained.  "So it's not easy, it's not as easy as it was in Egypt, where you go to one ISP (Internet Service Provider), which has all the Internet cables going through one building, and you just call them and say you need to shut this down. This is not possible anymore because it's so distributed."

Metalab is a so-called hackerspace in Vienna, where tech enthusiasts collaborate on projects like computer networks as well as radio.
 
Adrian Dabrowski was one of the first to work on FunkFeuer. Dabrowski recalled first playing with the then-new WiFi possibilities.
 
"There were these experiments, make an own antenna and get not 20 meters but get 100 meters or get 200 meters and yeah, it was very interesting and suddenly you could build networks over a whole city and it was like a whole new world,"  Dabrowski recalled.

And here, collaboration with ham radio operators like Clemens Hopfer has led to a new breakthrough that has allowed them to send data by shortwave radio to receivers up to 200 kilometers away.
 
"If you want to spread links across a big country, it's not that easy to do it, but, it is possible," Hopfer said.

Programmers say the technology holds great promise - and to help spur innovation, all of their plans and technical memos are available free, online.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid