Why I started DataRoads.Org
As with most truly new endeavors, this one took a path that no one could predict or intend. I really thought there would already be something like this out there, somewhere. I was surprised the DataRoads.Org domain name was even available. Even after setting up this web site, I thought all that we would have to do is promote existing network standards for deployment by land and home owners, making the Data Roads Foundation more like an Auto Club and less like a civil engineering firm.
In fact, I thought I already knew of a couple Data Roads routing software candidates, via my research for the NELA-ISC.Net project. The main projects I had in mind were CUWiN and PERM, both wireless mesh projects of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Unfortunately, most of the updates and action on these projects seem to have ended in 2008, due to students graduating, and Ph.D. candidates finishing their theses. They are two great open source projects to work from, but thorough research made it obvious that I would be fairly alone in updating them to the latest hardware. It also seemed like these projects were limited to small communities in scope, because of the use of IPv4 addressing. ICANN is running out of IPv4 numbers this year, because they are insufficient for seamless global routing compared to IPv6.
I looked all over the current Internet for router projects that would meet some simple criteria: IPv6 subnet with a 64-bit minimum for geographic numbering, efficient mesh topography routing in any medium (wired or wireless), and open source software support for configuration and upgrades. I looked at all available geographic and mesh routing systems mentioned in Wikipedia. I studied several University projects like those mentioned above. I looked into router firmware projects like OpenWRT, DD-WRT, and Tomato. I read about peer-to-peer network software of all types. Nothing out there completely fit our overall goals. Projects that approximate our needs are still in the IT experts-only phase, making it too difficult to get regular people to install it for themselves.
I studied a lot of different options for getting nonprofit startups bootstrapped. I bought a Nolo legal book on the subject, which is specifically written for California based nonprofits, but it’s applicable to most United States. I found new contacts through my Internet activism research — most helpfully Christopher Mitchell at MuniNetworks.org, and Sascha Meinrath at the Open Technology Initiative of the New America Foundation (he is also one of the co-founders of the CUWiN project mentioned above). I even joined the board of my local neighborhood council, even though it’s a Los Angeles City Chartered municipal organization, and thus not really a nonprofit. Based on research and advice, I tried to get an existing nonprofit to accept DataRoads.Org as a sponsored project. I found a few nonprofits in the Open Source and Community Network fields that seemed like good matches, but none of them are interested. I also looked into the Tides Foundation, and they required $5000 minimum in donations before they would accept any application for sponsorship. If I had that kind of money to put into this on my own, the nonprofit would already be incorporated.
So I started a challenge on ThePoint.com, which is a great service for all-or-nothing challenges. Either the challenge gets completely funded to the point where it will be sustainable, or nothing happens at all, and everyone keeps their pledge money. If you really want something to happen, but don’t have all the money needed to fund it on your own, this is a way to pledge money in a way that insures it will either happen when all resources are ready, or you keep your money.
I have already put a lot of my resources into this web site, but I have already pledged even more to ThePoint.com challenge. So if you really want to see DataRoads software and hardware created, and eventually have the chance to install your own home Data Roads, please help fund ThePoint.com challenge. I’ll try to make sure you never regret it.