Detroit is the proving grounds for a new open source wireless network technology called Commotion. According to FierceWireless, Commotion is a new wireless mesh-networking platform being deployed across Detroit by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute (OTI).
The OTI has completed the first phase of construction of the wireless test bed in Detroit’s Cass Corridor, where Commotion connects low-income apartment buildings, community centers, churches and businesses. FierceWireless says the prototype open-source network allows neighbors to communicate with one another and can potentially distribute Internet access to local residents, the group says. “The Detroit wireless network … will put control of the Internet into the hands of its users,” said OTI Director Sascha Meinrath. “The partners OTI works with in Detroit are not only self-provisioning connectivity for local residents, they’re proofing out technologies that support free, safe, ubiquitous communications around the globe.”
Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOM reports the new stack has technologies such as Serval, which would enable the handsets to recognize the Commotion network, Tor, a program that can hide where a user is coming from and OpenBTS, an open source base station that runs software that can interface between VoIP networks and GSM radios.
The OTI release on the news notes that more than half of Detroit residents do not have Internet service at home due to the cost of service and a lack of investment in infrastructure by Internet service corporations.
GigaOM also notes that the public release of Commotion follows a funding round for a company called Open Garden, which is pursuing a similar mesh network creation software. Meanwhile Range Networks has formed to support the OpenBTS standard and deliver a “network in a box” that runs the OpenBTS software and allows users to make voice calls anywhere in the world.
Am I the only one that sees the irony that the fed‘s are using Detroit as a proving ground for technologies designed to help take down dictatorships. According to the OTI press release, the U.S. Department of State is funding the Detroit Commotion project to test the potential of the technology in third world places like Egypt or Syria or Detroit.
Don’t worry, we are the government and we are here to help.
Do you think Open Source Wireless for Detroit will work?