The Mesh Network Design to Bring Internet to Rural Places

My final project is focused on bringing a free, ever-growing, and secure internet to rural towns in America who do not have access to high-speed internet. I am developing a compact piece of technology that is a Wi-Fi repeater. The concept of a WI-FI repeater is not a new one, repeaters are used to retransmit signals to different areas now. My WI-FI repeater will work on and repeat a mesh network, this is a network that is routed to extend service areas while allowing for self-healing in addition to self-organizing assets ( Glass, S., Portmann, M., Portmann, M., Muthukkumarasamy, V., & Muthukkumarasamy, V. 2008). The use of ad-hoc networking allows mesh networks to have these two incredible features. This mesh network takes the traditional “star” system of wireless communication and transforms it into an interweaving or “mesh” connection. With the mesh connection accessible through the WIFI repeater, any device (PC, Tablet, IPhone, etc.) can connect with the mesh network, making them nodes. These nodes then grow the network while supplying internet to any node within the Wi-Fi space that connects to the network ( Akyildiz, I. F., & Wang, X. (2005). My theory is that by equipping small towns in rural areas with their own specific repeaters and through educating the communities, this device can help bring mesh network internet services to communities. It is important to note that this technology is not being developed to supply high download and streaming speeds to rural areas. Instead, it is being developed to bring basic wireless internet connections to towns still using dial up features.

Kakihara and Sorenson dissect the concept of mobility, breaking it up into spatial, temporal, and contextual (2001). Spatial is detailed as having to do with the mobility of objects, symbols, and space (2001, p.31). Upon connecting to the mesh network system via smartphone, computer, or tablets, the device becomes an enabling node of the network. The connecting device then enables the network to grow and span a larger area of mobility. Consequently, the device itself becomes the physical representation of the network and as it moves through physical space the connection and possibility to connect does too. “A loosely connected network of computers brings forth a virtual spatiality – a ‘virtual community’ or ‘cyber community,’” Kakihara and Sorensen say (2001, p. 34). The technology I am purposing in essence takes the devices and appliance of people in a physical community to create their own “cyber” or “virtual” community.

Temporal is the second aspect of mobility discussed by Kakihara and Sorenson. Temporal meaning moving across time, generations and different periods (2001). Through the make-up of the mesh network I am looking to deploy, at any specific time the connection sequence can change in efforts to allow the device a stronger connection. For instance, if a community member is signed in to the network and using a neighboring device as a connection node. A household member logs in, the connection link will change to support the in house items more thoroughly, possibly discarding the initial neighboring connection. The use of a mesh-network allows for connection links to change at any node location to supply the best internet possible for that device.

Kakihara and Sorenson’s last attribute for mobility is contextual mobility, or the context of where the conversation is held. The technology I am developing is to be used within local rural communities. Implementation of the technology and network would give a digital voice to communities that are without them currently. In doing this, use of the network would allow the community to use applications and services to communicate within the community and outside the community.

In deploying my technology I came across security concerns. How secure will this connection be? These connections are maintained by the community independent of third party Internet Service Provider addresses. The network instead relies on interconnecting devices of the community. So on one hand, these networks are not assessable to the internet’s back doors or the surveillance techniques Fung discusses the police use, fake cell phone towers and stingrays (2014). Marwick defines social surveillance as a way of tracking information about people to feel power over another (2012). The network itself does not provide the social information Marwick believes leads to social surveillance. Yet, that does not make the connection 100% safe either. The mesh network would have to be thoroughly encrypted with a system of checks to protect against attacks that may leak information. Grayhole, Sybil, and blackhole attacks are just some of the attacks that can be set up by malicious nodes to gain access to private information (Sen, 2012). Though the mesh network protects against social surveillance and police spyware the make-up of the connection can lead to attacks in which personal information can be found.

It is significant to touch on the effects of my technology and social media. Though my technology and its deployment involve no social media features, through its use social media may become assessable and I feel it is important to touch on the possible outcomes of this since social media has become such an integral part of our society. The implement of this technology could possibly allow users to connect to social media for the first time. In which the users would become aware of mobile communication and building social networks. To Humphreys, “mobile interactions with social networks are those interactions center[ed] on connection or communication with people through mobile media”. (2012, p.495). It is through this view that I think implementation of these mesh networks could lead to the use of social media in places currently not using the sphere. In doing this the digital divide in terms of using social media for personal, business, and local use would shrink.

The internet and mobile technologies continue to advance in America every day.  My technology would allow for rural towns that have been denied this access to fiber optic internet speeds to “catch up.” Though the speed of the internet will not be as powerful as the industry standard, the tech would still allow for updated speeds for the community. Interestingly, the use of the technology and connecting to the mesh network would be looked at as a social obligation by community members. As it is the community who control, grow, and share the connection. This technology will allow the small no name towns to be heard in the virtual space while fostering a communal pride by running the network.

  • Akyildiz, I. F., & Wang, X. (2005). A survey on wireless mesh networks. IEEE Communications Magazine, 43(9), S23-S30. doi:10.1109/MCOM.2005.1509968
  • Fung, B. (2014, June 3). How hard should it be for cops to track your location? A new lawsuit revives the debate. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  • Glass, S., Glass, S., Portmann, M., Portmann, M., Muthukkumarasamy, V., & Muthukkumarasamy, V. (2008). Securing wireless mesh networks. IEEE Internet Computing, 12(4), 30-36. doi:10.1109/MIC.2008.85
  • Humphreys, Lee. (2012). “Connecting, Coordinating, Cataloguing: Communicative Practices on Mobile Social Networks,” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 56:4, 495
  • Kakihara, Masao & Sorensen, Carsten. (2001). Expanding the ‘Mobility’ Concept. SIGGROUP Bulletin, 22(3), 33-37
  • Marwick, Alice.(2012). “Public Domain: Surveillance in everyday life.” Surveillance & Society. 9(4): 378-393
  • Sen, J. (2012). A secure and user privacy-preserving searching protocol for peer-to-peer networks. International Journal of Communication Networks and Information Security, 4(1), 29.
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