WiFi-SciFi: My open spectrum fiction on Salon

Last week, I shipped a novel with an open source license. This week, Salon is running my open spectrum novellette, "Liberation Spectrum," a story about the wireless commons and what it could mean for sovereignty, entrepreneurship, and politics. I wrote this for a workshop last fall at Bruce Sterling's place in Austin, and got some great criticism — thanks to everyone who helped make this a better peice.

Akwesahsne was just the sort of woods that the CogRad gear thrived in. Within a week, the entire rez would be unwired at 500 megabits/second, enough connectivity to move whatever data they could find a use for. The Warriors were resentful at first, but they came around.

Lee-Daniel went out with a crew that Elaine was leading, up on the northern border of the Sovereign. She had two junior surveyors with her, all of them loaded with positioning gear that tied in to Galileo, the European GPS network — the Galileo gear cost a fortune, but they'd found that their American GPS kit often mysteriously stopped working when they were working on projects in the territorial USA. They'd ordered the Euro stuff from a bunch of anti-globalization activists who'd found that the same thing happened in any city hosting an economic summit. Europeans were more likely to treat infrastructure as sacrosanct, while the U.S. was only too happy to monkey with GPS for tactical reasons. The Series A man hated the expense of the Galileo gear, hated paying off crusty-punk Starbucks-smashers for critical tools, hated the optics of looking like a bunch of anarchists instead of a spunky start-up.

The surveyors and the Warriors kept their distance as they set out, one Warrior leading and one bringing up the rear. Elaine called for a break every five or ten minutes to check her location against the map and to hammer down an RF beacon that would serve to measure the drop-off over the terrain as they hiked. She used binox with an integrated laserpointer to check the distance and clarity to remote points, and a squealing handheld brick of oscilloscope gear to measure the crossover of the other beacons on the hill. All the while, she muttered down her cellphone's headpiece with the other crews, making sure they weren't overlapping or diverging too widely, keeping everything squared with the maps on her screens and in her head.

The woods had a high canopy, which was good news. When they started out, they'd focused on getting above the leaf line, since leaves badly scattered RF signals, but they'd ended up with networks that were only reachable by people who were twenty feet off the ground. They'd blown a fortune downlinking the relays to ground-level stations with omnidirectional antennae.

But then Lee-Daniel had had a brainstorm — build the network below the leaf line. Heavy canopy starved out any foliage that grew below the treetops, leaving a clear line of sight (modulo the tree trunks, which were largely RF transparent) on the forest floor. That pushed CogRad from a theoretical project to a real success.