Northern Community Access Network

Submitted by Air Stream Committee File

Background

Air-Stream is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 2002 that has built one of the largest entirely community owned and operated communications networks in the world.

We strive to help community members and organisations get connected with each other, the Internet, and unique local resources in an affordable way with almost ZERO ONGOING COST.

A Community Wireless Network (CWN) is a collection of smaller interconnected networks that span a geographical region such as a city or neighbourhood. The primary means of connectivity between ‘nodes’ in the network is via wireless LAN radio, these days better known as ‘WiFi’.

For more information see our website, http://www.air-stream.org/cwn

Whilst technically similar to the internet, a CWN operates independently of the internet and provides its own critical infrastructure services such as HTTP and DNS. Through the use of specialised routing software, the network is made resilient to failures and multiple backup paths can be created between each node.

Since WiFi technology operates best with a clear line-of-sight between transmitter and receiver, our equipment must usually be located on a the roof of a building, mast or some other elevated structure. Finding suitable locations is tricky and thus we rely heavily on the support of the community, local councils and businesses to provide appropriate locations.

The Air-Stream network is comprised of hundreds of nodes (interconnected sites) supplied, configured, and maintained by members of the community, who decide how the network should operate and where resources should be focused. This allows us to find new and creative ways to make low-cost communications systems that have long-term benefits for everyone.

Air-Stream holds a number of in-person events throughout the year, from information sessions, to training, and fundraisers. We also collaborate with amateur (ham) radio clubs and technology groups from around Australia.

While our organisation is funded, governed and maintained by paid membership, access to our network is freely available to all members of the community.

Funds raised through membership, donations and special events are put back 100% into maintenance and expansion of the network.

The Proposal

In recent years we have developed one key network node in the northern suburbs in coordination with the Elizabeth Amateur Radio Club. This site has created huge opportunity for members of the Northern suburbs to get involved in our project and its many benefits. With community groups and individuals already utilising this node there are some improvements that can be made to ensure its longevity.

Another significant node in Buckland Park has gone through months of planning and is about to transition into the build phase. This node is currently planned to be funded by the active member in that area, however it would definitely benefit from a funding injection and reduce the individual financial burden.

Thirdly, a long established node that has gone through several incarnations is located in a very elevated position near One Tree Hill, and provides excellent coverage as well as the opportunity to link remote Northern locations such as Gawler and beyond. This is also a completely member-funded site and it would greatly benefit from a modern equipment upgrade.

Our proposal is to first use the available funding to accelerate these Northern projects and provide updated equipment to strengthen already established sites.

Further, through consultation with local council, the opportunity exists to create a low cost information network that interconnects offices throughout the region and provides access to local resources.

Thus we propose to establish an additional 4-6 new network nodes, strategically located throughout the Playford and Salisbury areas.

All projects will be fully documented and progress reports, photos, etc published to the Air-Stream website and social media.

Problem you're solving

Air-Stream’s infrastructure creates a secure network that operates independently of the Internet.

This enables members of the community to experiment and create new innovative systems that are unique, extremely low cost, and sometimes impossible to achieve with the Internet.

Individuals and organisations can:

- Create free and secure communication between remote locations
- Provide wireless hotspots for events held in the Northern suburbs
- Perform free off-site data backup
- Share IT resources between operational units
- Perform real time monitoring and control of remote systems (e.g. computers, cameras, lights, temperature, pumps, tank levels)
- Operate continuously in the event of Internet outage
- Access unique content created by other members of the community

Whilst Air-Stream does not provide Internet access, it does allow for:

- Reduced cost through sharing of an existing internet service
- Provision of Internet services at locations where other technologies are not viable

A number of common network services such as web and voice over IP are already provided at various points within the Air-Stream network. However, the open nature of our network and organisation we encourage members of the community to contribute their own unique services and content that are often tailored to meet a specific need.

Some examples of how other local organisations have used the Air-Stream network:

- Community Radio Stations (used as alternative or backup comms with broadcast studio)
- Lutheran Community Care (resource sharing and secure inter-office comms)
- SA Group Enterprises (resource sharing and secure inter-office comms, voice over IP)
- Carrick Hill (public access to informational website)
- Surf Life Saving SA (consultation and planning on resource sharing network)
- Elizabeth Amateur Radio Club (remote control of transmission equipment)
- Science Alive at Wayville Showgrounds (remote control of transmission equipment for amateur radio demonstration)

Examples of other key applications:

- Free access to essential services for the disadvantaged (unemployed, welfare, etc)
- Free access to local specific content such as libraries, community centres, council etc
- Specialised tourism information

Your solution

Planning and engineering design has already been completed on the three previously mentioned sites. A funding injection will accelerate the procurement of materials for these projects as well as any specialised equipment such as elevated working platforms, should they be required.

Estimate to upgrade or complete the build of 3 existing nodes: $3000 - $5000

In order to determine the most appropriate sites at which to establish new nodes, Air-Stream will consult with council and local businesses, and provide feasibility analysis.

Once this has been established and physical access to the required installation points have been approved, our Network Team would proceed with planning, procurement and installation of equipment.

This would follow our standard established project planning procedures. This involves a peer review process, costing of equipment and materials and full documentation. Engineering analysis and drawings will also be provided where necessary.

Only qualified personnel will be allowed to access physical locations and a full risk assessment will be made before commencement of any installation.

Our organisation currently holds public liability insurance cover $20m.

Based on the many previous installations of this type that have been self-funded, we can confidently estimate the all inclusive cost of each installation (new node) at approx $2000.

To establish 4-6 new nodes: $8000 - $12000

Low-voltage power supply to operate the equipment at each location is negligible and would be assumed by the entity hosting the site. Air-Stream has a standard Host Site Agreement which would be utilised to establish this understanding with the owner/tenant.

All other costs, manpower, tools, etc are provided by volunteer members.

Ongoing maintenance will be undertaken by the Air-Stream Network Team as part of their commitment to maintaining the current network. This would include the replacement of damaged equipment and any other upkeep.

Estimated funding required

$15000 - $17000

Comments

Comments closed

David Young

28 May 2015

Good luck guys.