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Wireless community networks or wireless community projects are the organizations that attempt to take a "grassroots approach to providing a viable alternative to "municipal wireless networks for consumers.
Because of evolving technology and locales, there are at least four different types of solution:
Certain countries regulate the selling of internet access, requiring a license to sell internet access over a wireless network. In "South Africa it is regulated by the "Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). They require that WISP's apply for a VANS or ECNS/ECS license before being allowed to resell internet access over a wireless link.
The cluster and mesh approaches are more common but rely primarily on the sharing of unmetered residential and business "DSL and "cable Internet. This sort of usage might be non-compliant with the "Terms of Service (ToS) of the typical local providers that deliver their service via the consumer phone and cable duopoly. Wireless community network sometimes advocate complete freedom from censorship, and this position may be at odds with the "Acceptable Use Policies of some commercial services used. Some ISPs do allow sharing or reselling of bandwidth.
These projects are in many senses an evolution of "amateur radio, and more specifically "packet radio, as well as an outgrowth of the "free software community (which in itself substantially overlaps with amateur radio)["citation needed]. The key to using standard wireless networking devices designed for short-range use for multi-kilometre "Long Range Wi-Fi linkups is the use of high-gain "directional antennas. Rather than purchasing commercially available units, such groups sometimes advocate homebuilt antenna construction. Examples include the "cantenna, which is typically constructed from a "Pringles potato chip can, and "RONJA, an optical link that can be made from a smoke "flue and "LEDs, with "circuitry and instructions released under the "GFDL. As with other "wireless mesh networks, three distinct generations of mesh networks are used in wireless community networks. In particular, in the 2004 timeframe, some mesh projects suffered poor performance when scaled up.
Organizationally, a wireless community network requires either a set of affordable commercial technical solutions or a critical mass of hobbyists willing to tinker to maintain operations. Mesh networks require that a high level of community participation and commitment be maintained for the network to be viable. The mesh approach currently requires uniform equipment. One market-driven aspect of the mesh approach is that users who receive a weak mesh signal can often convert it to a strong signal by obtaining and operating a repeater node, thus extending the mesh network.
Such volunteer organizations focusing in technology that is rapidly advancing sometimes have schisms and mergers.["citation needed] The Wi-Fi service provided by such groups is usually free and without the stigma of "piggybacking. An alternative to the voluntary model is to use a "co-operative structure.
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