Neighborhood Captain Pamphlet

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This is a bird's-eye view of a working neighborhood network. The homes are connected locally by wireless mesh nodes. They are also connected to the global Yggdrasil network as peers, and can access the Internet through a secure gateway. All communications on the Yggdrasil network (both wireless and wired) are encrypted for extra security.

Who/What Is Mass Mesh

Mass Mesh is a high-tech social club building community-owned mesh networks in Boston/Cambridge/Somerville. Our members are hackers, tinker-ers, organizers, artists, and just generally awesome. We all have one thing in common -- we're doing everything in our power to set the Internet free! To join the club, all you have to do is come to at least one of our weekly meetups per month. We're pretty sure you'll find something exciting to get involved with from there.

As of 2020, we’re a 100% volunteer group. Our network is owned and operated by our members, and it always will be. As we grow, democratic governance of our network will develop to accommodate the needs of the Mass Mesh volunteer teams and the neighborhood networks we support/facilitate. For more information about our organization’s strategy, see the 2020 organizational meeting notes.

What Is A Mesh Network

A mesh network is a special kind of computer network called a peer-to-peer (P2P) network. This means every node in the network is an active participant in delivering data. This has several profound effects on participants.

Firstly, mesh networks are robust. If one attached device goes down (maybe your neighbor's dog chews through an Ethernet cable!), the network lives on. Local communications can continue in the face of even significant outages. And, as long as the neighborhood captain’s node doesn’t go down, the whole neighborhood will stay connected to the Internet. Larger neighborhood networks may even obtain multiple connections to the Internet in order to have a super resilient connection.

Secondly, this means that network participants really do own their own network. They can decide how to use it together, host services on it, expand it how they see fit, etc. There are a lot of exciting mesh networks doing things like this across the United States. You can read about a few of them on our blog.

Why you Should Start A Neighborhood Network

By starting a neighborhood network, you take control of a small part of the communications infrastructure you use every day, and become part of the grass-roots alternative to corporate Internet access. Over the last two decades, giant corporations like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T have wrested control over the vast majority of our communications infrastructure. Because their sole aim is to extract a huge profit from their subscribers, they haven't invested in expanding access for all or maintaining a competitive level of service – nor have they upheld the ethical mandates of respecting their customers’ privacy and upholding net neutrality. Mass Mesh is a response to this massive inequity and the design practices that created it.

In addition to laying the groundwork for democratic network control, neighborhood networks are a great way to save money. A neighborhood network shares one “up-link” to the Internet, which means you can buy your bandwidth in bulk. When you start a neighborhood network, you could save yourself and your neighbors hundreds of dollars a year. That’s money that stays in your community – instead of being siphoned away by the cable giants.

What Is A Mesh-Node

A mesh node is just one point on the mesh network. There is one mesh node per home in a neighborhood network. The mesh-nodes that make up your neighborhood’s network will likely all look a little different depending on the terrain and network needs. However, they will all have the same basic components:

- One (or more) “radios” - One mini-computer

The mini-computer runs the Yggdrasil routing protocol, and uses the radios to communicate with the other homes in your neighborhood network wirelessly.

What Is A Neighborhood Network

The organizing unit of Mass Mesh is the neighborhood network. Each neighborhood network is a wireless mesh network of homes, and is free to use their network however they see fit. The most common use-case for a neighborhood network is to purchase Internet bandwidth collectively (for significant cost-savings.) Members of a 5-home neighborhood network can expect to pay less than $30 per month for 200Mbps or more bandwidth.

Neighborhood networks are owned locally, by the participants – that’s you! Each home in a neighborhood network is responsible for obtaining and running hardware available through Mass Mesh in order to participate in the network. Mass Mesh’s install and support team is also available to provide ongoing support for the network.

What Is A Neighborhood Captain

As a neighborhood captain, you are the host of your neighborhood network’s Internet connection. You are responsible for keeping your mesh-node online, and for coordinating with the gateway host to maintain a secure connection between your neighborhood and the rest of the Internet (more details on gateways and gateway operator below.) As the local face of Mass Mesh, you are free to grow your network with your neighbors.

What Is A Gateway And Who Is The Gateway Operator

Your neighborhood network is a mesh network, which basically means that it is a totally seperate network from the Internet. In order to securely access familiar Internet websites from within your neighborhood mesh network, you must connect to a secure Internet gateway. The Internet gatway is simply a high-performance computer in a data-center somewhere that is connected to your mesh network and the rest of the Internet. By accessing the Internet through a gateway, you maintain a higher level of privacy through encryption and enjoy some of the benefits of using a VPN.

There are several active gateway operators on our network. You can get in contact with them in the Mass Mesh Gateway Hosts chat channel.

The gateway operator has a lot of power. They can turn off Internet access for any/all of their clients. If you have a dispute with a neighbor, like a neighbor that refuses to pay, or is using the network unfairly, you can report them to your gateway operator for removal. Please use great care when doing this, as it’s a pretty extreme measure.