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It's Time to Take Mesh Networks Seriously (and Not Just For the Reasons You Think)

By Wired News

January 6, 2014

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Emergency "mesh" networks that wirelessly connect computers and devices directly to each other have existed for some time and offer numerous benefits, but are not yet widely used, writes Primavera De Filippi, a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

Ad hoc network infrastructures automatically reconfigure themselves according to the availability and proximity of bandwidth, storage, and other factors, making them resilient in the face of interference such as disasters. Packets can use multiple routes to navigate the network due to dynamic connections between nodes. Mesh networks can only be taken down when every node is shut down, unlike more centralized network architectures.

Mesh networks have been deployed for their resilience during political upheavals and natural disasters, but also as an inexpensive, basic connectivity infrastructure in poor neighborhoods and underserved areas. Furthermore, privacy concerns are reduced with mesh networks, which do not have a central regulating authority and therefore maintain the confidentiality of online communications.

Socially, mesh networks offer an alternative to traditional governance models by enabling people to self-organize into communities that share resources and control the infrastructure of communication.

Although mesh networks offer many advantages, they are currently limited by technical obstacles, the perception that they are emergency tools, and political factors due to concerns about the lack of third-party regulation.

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