WiFi the Austin Moontowers!

Via BoingBoing, I came across this "Austin's Wireless Future" report.

It's a dry but comprehensive survey -- well, comprehensive except in one respect. There's little mention of the potential for a free community wireless backbone. Yes, they mention free hotspots, and wireless for reaching rural areas, but nothing in the mold of SFLan or Bay Area Research Wireless Network (BARWN). In these networks, strategically-placed 802.11 nodes, owned and maintained by volunteers, relay traffic through a completely over-the-air free metro network (with one uplink to the rest of the internet somewhere).

And it's a shame such a system hasn't broken into the Austin wireless consciousness yet, because Austin has something that could give a giant boost -- literally and figuratively -- to an SFLan-type project: the moon towers, relics of a 19th-century civic illumination project. The moon towers have power, prime locations, and sufficient height to give lines-of-sight to risk dying for.

Slap an SFLan-style relay-and-redistribute-node atop each tower, route them through each other, find one good uplink, and a giant swatch of Austinites would have access to a free, high-speed wireless internet. They could log on directly with their laptops, or extend the reach of the free net via ad-hoc hotspots built with off-the-shelf consumer tech.

(Regarding SFLan, from my apartment in central San Francisco, with a good ~$30 antenna, I can detect 4 of SFLan's free nodes, and achieve a solid connection to one of them.)

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