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[Fwd: Multiple Internets]

On Wed, Feb 10, 2016 at 9:09 AM Ted Smith <[email protected]> wrote:

> I'm a little skeptical of wireless mesh networks as a general solution
> to this sort of problem, because they're inherently chatty, and have
> very limited reach.
> I think a better solution is local wired networks with something like
> Freenet running over them providing distributed censorship-proof
> storage. The next challenge is to synchronize contents between local
> Freenet darknets over sneakernet, which I don't think has been done.

Interesting. I would have thought wired for longer distance communication,
with local mesh networks for the "last mile."

Do you have some thoughts on how to set up a local wired freenet? Back in
the days of modems over content-oblivious phone lines, freenets were easy
because phone lines in bulk were pretty cheap per line, and pretty much
everyone had a land line. In this day and age of video and high-resolution
images, that no longer seems like an option.

Whenever I think of "mesh" I think "mobile mesh," which is just part of the
picture. The mesh networks I've actually seen in action are static
"meshes", which are only really called that because the ISP puts
omnidirectional antennas on some of their customers' roofs to daisy-chain
other customers off of, not because they use any kind of dynamic mesh
routing protocol. This approach might actually work for setting up a
freenet: negotiate directly with local businesses (particularly public
places like coffee shops) and residents to set up local hotspots, then put
up high-gain directional and omnidirectional antennas on a different band
or at least channel to handle the longer distance links.

Of course, the businesses/residents involved are probably going to be
primarily interested in access to the "regular" Internet, but that doesn't
stop you from using strong encryption on the links themselves, tunnelling
onion/mixnet networks, offering local services in private IP space, etc.
Over time, you can replace tunnels over the government-controlled Internet
with wireless links or leased lines with strong crypto. It won't stop the
network from getting shut down if the links are specifically cataloged and
targeted, but it seems like current "internet kill switch" proposals
primarily focus on the layer 3 infrastructure, not on the link or physical
layers. And certainly not on RF.

But even if you do that, if you are offering a "public" service, and you
actually get a lot of users, it seems likely you'd end up being a victim of
your own success, noticed by regulators and then forced to comply with the
same regulations that cover the Internet, including any retention and "kill
switch" requirements. You might be able to mitigate some of that by
encouraging mac address spoofing and end-to-end encryption, but that
doesn't stop a government from taking over one of the local services and
putting a gag order on the operator, then tracking someone to a specific
coffee shop and sneaking up behind them and pinning their arms to their
sides so they can't wipe their machine. Having a dead man switch/"panic
button" on any local servers, routers, etc might help with that,
particularly if there's plausible deniability there. "Sorry, can't comply
with your retention order because our hard disk just died and it's going to
take us months to get the server back online." It works for the Chicago PD
with their constantly "malfunctioning" dashcams, so why not for us?

One side benefit of bringing back freenets in a big way might be the
ability to push back against regulations that have compliance costs. If a
bunch of people voters care about are dependent for their Internet access
on freenets that would have to shut down if they are required to retain
logs for years and set up systems for easy law enforcement access,
politicians might think twice about pushing for such things. Provided they
can't get away with characterizing freenets as dens of "hackers", drug
dealers, terrorists, and child pornographers of course. Which is why it's
important to remain connected with society and not become hermits hiding
out in Internet backwaters.

There's always more social/community-oriented solutions ala Max Hernandez's
Thieves Emporium where you have secret access points and people need to be
vouched in, but that is incredibly hard and would likely remain quite
small, because the probability of infiltration approaches 100% once you get
into the thousands of participants. And of course, if it's small and
secret, nobody will notice when it and its operators/users quietly get

Obviously these approaches are orthogonal to one another, and you can use
any combination of them.
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