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.
TEXT SIZE - +
— 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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid