US Activists Prepare For Possible Internet Shutdown, Report Says

© AP Photo / Charles KrupaIn this June 19, 2018, file photo a router and internet switch are displayed in East Derry, N.H. Net neutrality traces back to an engineering maxim called the “end-to-end principle,” a self-regulating network that put control in the hands of end users rather than a central authority
In this June 19, 2018, file photo a router and internet switch are displayed in East Derry, N.H. Net neutrality traces back to an engineering maxim called the “end-to-end principle,” a self-regulating network that put control in the hands of end users rather than a central authority - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.10.2021
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This week, netizens around the world were left frustrated after Facebook and its affiliates Instagram and WhatsApp were hit by outages twice. Now imagine if the entire Internet collapsed – no facetiming with parents, no opportunity to check work email and (oh, God), no chance of finishing that thriller series on Netflix.
US activists have started preparing for a possible Internet shutdown, Vice reported. According to the outlet, activists from the Mycelium Mesh Project have been testing a decentralised, off-grid network.
A statement posted on the project’s website suggests that corporate Internet can’t be relied on, as it can easily become unavailable due to natural disasters or interference from authorities during protests or a coup d’etat.
"The network that we all use will work pretty much fine in 99.9% of the cases. But then when it doesn't, it's a real big problem", said Marlon Kautz, an organiser and developer with the project.

How Does the Off-Grid Network Work?

Activists have been working on mesh networks, which consist of solar powered relay nodes that can be deployed at any time across an area, preferably in high-up locations – utility poles, tree tops, skyscrapers – as well as peer nodes that people carry with them. The system allows individuals to send and receive messages using their smartphones even when Internet, cellular networks, and electricity are unavailable.

Those behind the project claim it is attack-resistant and is easy to build with materials obtained locally. The project has successfully tested its mesh networks by sending and receiving text messages across 13 miles in Atlanta, Georgia. During the test, the nodes were powered with rechargeable batteries that had previously been used in electronic cigarettes.
Now activists are working on encrypting messages as well as ways to make nodes suitable for long-range use.

Although a shutdown of the Internet by the US government sounds like the plot of a dystopian movie, the organiser of the project, Marlon Kautz, argues that such a scenario is quite feasible.

"It is the backstop, it is the joker, it is the ace card and there are more than enough examples to demonstrate that the state will do this kind of thing if they need it to maintain control”, he said, noting that the Communications Act of 1934 allows the president to take control of "any facility or station for wire communication".

According to Internet research firm Top10VPN, since 2019 there have been 239 Internet shutdowns in 45 countries.
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