Vive la [wireless] resistance!

— 6:13 PM on August 27, 2001

Tired of getting jacked by ISPs and their high prices for slow wireless service? According to this article at Info World, you just might be able to become a part of an alternative.

The movement, called by some the "parasitic grid" and by others more simply the "free metro wireless data network," has already installed itself in New York; San Francisco; Seattle; Aspen, Colo., Portland, Ore., British Columbia; and London.

"If you have enough of these in place and spread out effectively, you have created what is referred to as a parasitic grid: multiple wireless-served areas. If you have enough you would have connectivity nationally," said J. R. Bibb, a technology advisor to Shell Oil in Houston. Bibb was offering his own opinion as a technologist and was not speaking for Shell Oil.

What it is all about is the use of a technology called 802.11b, a standard for wireless Ethernet that works on an unlicensed portion of the wireless spectrum. At a performance of 11Mb per second, it is in fact five times faster than the best speeds promised by all the major wireless network operators for 3G services.

This sounds very cool, as I've always thought fast wireless networking would be the killer app for portable devices. The potential here is quite staggering, when you think about it. While it remains to be seen whether a volunteer, cooperative network like this can really succeed, I'd say it has a pretty good chance. At least, I hope it does, because I'm already thinking about where I could put an access point.
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