Planning the Las Vegas Mesh Network

How we are developing a Community-owned Wireless Mesh Network in Las Vegas, Nevada to support the growth of decentralized internet infrastructure.

About

The Las Vegas Mesh Network is a community wireless network project to develop a community-owned internet service provider (ISP) via decentralized internet infrastructure (i.e., members of the network own, deploy, and manage the infrastructure, and provide internet access to each other without a centralized intermediary) in the City of Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Mesh Network is being spearheaded by Charles Adjovu, Director and Researcher at Ledgerback Commons Research Cooperative (“Ledgerback”), a research, innovation and education center for collective action and commoning.

Organizer

Charles Adjovu, Director & Researcher at Ledgerback

Mission

To operate a community-owned ISP in a way that facilitates community-members ability to: 

  1. own and manage their internet infrastructure  

  2. access the Internet at affordable rates

  3. retain privacy over their Internet browsing history

  4. share Internet access with other community-members.

Vision

We envision the Las Vegas Mesh Network becoming a prominent, community-owned ISP that offers internet access at affordable rates and will serve as a model for mitigating inequities in internet access and infrastructure in Las Vegas and greater Nevada. 

How are we going to build the wireless network?

To build the wireless network, we need to undertake four processes:

  • Community Design

  • Outreach Survey

  • Site Mapping

  • Skills Inventory [3].

Community Design

For Community Design, we want to design the network to ensure the technologies we will need for the network will fit in accordance with pre-existing relationships in the sites [3]. In other words, we want to make sure the wireless network maps onto the existing social networks in the planned sites [3].

For example, a community center is an area where having multiple access points makes sense because it is a space where many people come together to engage in group activities [3].

Site Mapping

In Site Mapping, we are mapping the physical location of the wireless network and how we will establish our physical equipment [3].

First, we want to determine the topography of the area [3]. 

Second, we want to determine the built space in the area (buildings, trees, towers, etc.) [3].

Third, we want to determine the features of buildings in the area (floors, line of sight, roof type, benefits, challenges, etc.) [3].

Fourth, we want to determine how to install equipment (e.g., mounting routers to roofs, finding power supplies) on buildings we selected in the previous step [3].

Fifth, we want to test our equipment and see how it performs under real-world conditions.

Outreach Survey

To better understand the needs of potential members and the potential sites for the wireless network, we have created an outreach survey to:

  • Understand people’s needs

  • Find out existing resources that will support the network

  • Make contact with people located in potential sites

  • Raise awareness of the project

  • See who’s willing to contribute 

  • Gain new perspectives on the project [3].

Skills, Roles and Tasks Inventory

To start, grow and maintain the wireless network, we will need to identify the necessary skills needed to develop, grow and maintain the wireless network [3].

Additionally, we will need to identify the roles participants can fill to utilize their skills in furtherance of the development of the mesh network [3].

Lastly, we will also need to determine the tasks needed to grow the wireless network [3].

What is a Mesh Network?

Mesh Network Basics

A mesh network is a network topology (virtual layout of devices on a network) of interconnected devices where any device on the network can act as a router and forward traffic in the network [1].

In this network, there is not one central node that routes traffic, rather traffic can be routed by any node on the network, thus providing for peer-to-peer communications [1].  

Mesh networks are a stark contrast from a star network, where one node on the network is responsible for routing traffic on the network (i.e., central access point) [1]. This node acts as the central access point for all traffic [1].

Mesh networks are also dynamic networks, such that they are resilient to changes in topology (e.g., nodes leaving the network), and can adjust routing paths as new devices join the network or devices leave the network [1]. Additionally, a mesh network strengthen (i.e., avoiding network issues such as congestion, interference) and expand (i.e., new routing paths) as more devices join the network [1].

Benefits of Mesh Networks

  • Removal of a central point of failure

  • Can work with minimal infrastructure;

  • “network works with minimal infrastructure and can therefore be deployed faster at a lower cost than traditional infrastructure.”

  • Can connect multiple devices in a wide area because devices can re-transmit signals;

  • Networks are more resilient to changes in topology;

  • They are not reliant on solely one node to route traffic on the network [1].

Why a Mesh Network instead of a Traditional ISP?

There are many reasons why to choose a mesh network over a traditional ISP.

Here are a couple of reasons why:

  • Speed/Quality: Nodes in the network will be optimized to use the lowest-cost route for sending traffic on the network, thus increasing the quality of traffic. Additionally, the speed of the mesh network will increase as more nodes are added to network.

  • Pricing: We can provide multiple pricing schemes, including a pay-as-you-go and a tiered (free, premium, etc.) model. Additionally, as the number of nodes increases, the service will improve while the price decreases. Lastly, nodes in the network will be optimized to use the lowest-cost route for sending traffic on the network, thus lowering your cost on a per-route basis.

  • Privacy: We do not plan on spying on your browsing activity. All traffic on the network will be secured via encryption between nodes, and the network itself will act as a Virtual Private Network through an exit node

  • Reliability: Even though the system cannot avoid all problems, it is optimized to be resilient such that if a node or nodes are down, your router will look for an alternative route to take. As more people join, the more routes that are available to take [1, 2].

Potential Network Sites

Four areas have been scouted as potential sites for the Las Vegas Mesh Network:

  1. Downtown Las Vegas

  2. North of Downtown Las Vegas

  3. North Las Vegas

  4. Arts District

Event Planning

We plan to host an event about the Las Vegas Mesh Network that will cover:

  • The requirements for a wireless network,

  • The basics of wireless networks,

  • The potential sites for the wireless network,

  • The potential benefits of a wireless network, and

  • How residents can participate in establishing the wireless network.

Outreach Survey

We have created an outreach survey for people to become better informed of the Las Vegas Mesh Network and so that anyone can provide their input  for the development of the wireless network and determine how they can contribute to the wireless network. 

Survey link:

https://forms.gle/2KHt7QVpjMMyjDco9

Current Status

We are currently mapping potential sites for the Las Vegas Mesh Network and getting in contact with potential community members about joining the Las Vegas Mesh Network.

Contact

Twitter: @lasmesh

Email: lvmesh@ledgerback.coop

References

[1] https://hackernoon.com/9-things-you-need-to-know-about-mesh-networks-f61a77e5751a

[2] https://detroitblockchaincenter.org/incentivized-mesh-net/

[3] https://commotionwireless.net/docs/