So you want to try this WirelessCommunity thing? First, you need to understand the technology. We use wireless ethernet gear, specifically 802.11b a.k.a. WiFi. We usually run it in "infrastructure mode", which means you use one or more client computer(s) talking to an AccessPoint, or "hub" antenna, but there may be a few links set up differently.

That's the basics of the layout. To become part of PersonalTelco, first add yourself to the CommunityMaps, and see if there is anyone near you interested in the project. You may also wish to join the MailingList, as a lot of details are still being worked out. If you are near one of the existing WirelessNeighborhoods, then you're halfway there. If not, figure out who is, or perhaps will be, running an AccessPoint with an antenna you can see from your home (physical obstructions are more important than distance). It might end up being you, if you're centrally visible. Then you can purchase appropriate equipment (including an antenna), and connect to your neighbors!

There's no formal standard (yet) on if or how a WirelessNeighborhood connects to the Internet or to other WirelessNeighborhood sites in town. We hope to eventually connect them all into one big WirelessCommunity, with a common CaptivePortal to manage addresses and Internet access. But for now, we just want to encourage people to become part of a WirelessNeighborhood.

(How's that, helpful?)

Another way of looking at it, from a post by TerrySchmidt to the NycWireless MailingList. (I'll tidy it up later -- AdamShand)

Simple how to build a simple free public wireless access point:

My current package of equipment recommendations (prices from and other sources):

Total cost for access point, $289. This gives you a lot better range than a stock RG-1000.

Next your going to need your choice of internet access, be it a T1, DSL, or cable modem, etc.

  1. Plug the Access Point into the high speed internet access and configure.
  2. If your in the NYC area, set your ESSID / Network name as as this will aid in roaming and identification that this is a free public wireless network. If your in another area I recommend setting the ESSID / Network name to the website of your local free community wireless group.
  3. Turn WEP off.
  4. Turn the DHCP server on.
  5. Test node.

Next publicize it:

  1. Add your node to GAWD
  2. Post on the mailing list of your local free wireless community group.

In this configuration the limitation on casually web surfers and reading emails is ~100 people. Your basic limitation is your internet connection (DSL or cable modem), not the wireless gear, since it operates at a real world throughput of 4mbits/sec.

Note that this is for a coffee shop / public park style installation. For example a person sitting in a public / or semi-public place with a laptop accessing this internet. This is not for point to point or point to multipoint type long distance links. If you are interested in that you had better ask on the SeattleWireless and BaWug list as they have more experience in this area.