Wireless Binds Tibetan Exiles

I filed a story and photos for Wired News today on the innovative tech underpinnings of a community wireless project I visited recently in Dharamshala, India. Snip:

Across the border from Chinese-occupied Tibet, the tech infrastructure in this high mountain village is a mess.

But a former Silicon Valley dot-commer and members of the underground security group Cult of the Dead Cow are working with local Tibetan exiles to change that using recycled hardware, solar power, open-source software and nerd ingenuity.

The Dharamsala Wireless Mesh is an example of "light infrastructure," a concept gaining popularity among tech developers: decentralized, ad hoc networks that can deliver essential services faster than conventional means.

Attempts to deploy similar community wireless networks in America have been blocked repeatedly by national phone carriers. It takes a big company like Google to build citywide Wi-Fi networks (the company launched its first in Mountain View, California, this week).

So sustainable network builders are going where they're welcome — in this case, a rural village 7,000 feet up in the Himalayas.

(…) Some of the technical challenges [network project founder Yahel Ben-David faces] are unique. This may be one of the only networks in the world where antennas must be monkey-proofed.

"Monkeys are everywhere," says Ben-David. "Often, you'll see a huge, gorilla-sized monkey hang on to an antenna, swing from it, eat it, try to break it. We lost a lot of cables that way, but now we use very strong equipment so that even monkeys can't break it."

Link to article, "Wireless Binds Tibetan Exiles", and Link to an extensive photo gallery: "Dharamsala Dreamin'."

Update: Here's a discussion about this article on Slashdot: Link.


* Xeni's "reporter's notebook" trek blog.

* NPR Day to Day radio series "Hacking the Himalayas":