Rob "Community Wireless Networks" Flickenger has written an excellent primer on, well, community wireless networking for PC Magazine. He covers all the basics of technology and social phenomena, and imparts some of the vibrance of community networking, too.
The captive portal provides Web site redirection, which you may have encountered when surfing the Web from hotels that provide DSL access to rooms. When the Wi-Fi card in your laptop associates with the access point and you try to open a Web site, you are redirected to an introduction page that identifies the network and invites you to log on (sometimes after paying a nominal fee for access). Once cleared with the authentication service, you are redirected to the site requested.
The hot spot has its place in any community network project because it is relatively simple to set up and provides immediate benefits. For little more than the price of the hardware, homes and businesses can use the wireless network to access a high-speed DSL line (or other appropriate network connection), sharing its cost. Sponsors can charge competitive fees for Internet access to help offset the cost of operations.
The hot spot has one critical limitation: You can set it up only where high-speed Internet access is already available. What if you want to extend network access outside of DSL and cable range, or you want to bridge two networks together but can't afford a dedicated telco line?
(via 802.11b Networking News
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