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INTERNET THE GOVERNMENT CAN’T KILL!!: The PirateBox and Internet Freedom

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There has been a big response regarding the PirateBox mentioned in “WiFi + USB Drive = Your Own Mini-Internet (Freedom)” ranging from mostly excitement to some confusion and many questions in between – especially on how to get involved.

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The PirateBox is software that can be used to turn your WiFi enabled computer into a local router. It can also be used to make actual “PirateBoxes,” which are stand-alone devices that likewise create a local network. The advantage of a local network, not connected to the Internet, is that you can file share and communicate your way around the draconian restrictions and regulations being increasingly put into place on the Internet.

Q: How is this different than my router-based LAN?

A: PirateBox doesn’t require a router. It takes any device with a WiFi modem, and turns it into the router. This includes mobile devices – meaning that unlike your typical router, it can create a network anywhere you can carry your mobile device – from your home or office, to a train, or even on a jetliner.

Additionally, any device wishing to connect to your local network, doesn’t need to be configured. The PirateBox network shows up in your WiFi connection list like any WiFi network you would normally encounter (like in a cafe).

You simply connect to that network, open your web browser, and the PirateBox interface shows up as your homepage where you can share files and chat inside the browser – users do not need to install or configure anything at all on their computers – and it works across platforms (Apple, Windows, Linux). If you want to connect to the Internet, you simply open up your WiFi connection list again, and pick the network you usually use for the Internet. Switching back and forth takes seconds.

Q: So what? So you can make a local network – why should I care? I like the Internet better. 

A. The Internet still is and will be a useful tool. But if we have the technology to begin hedging the risk of depending entirely on it, we should do so. That is the idea behind using software like PirateBox and mesh networks as inspiration for building a parallel Internet by and for the people, undermining and circumventing efforts by special interests to curb our liberties and freedom.

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