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This page tries to summarize the current vision for what a usable, real-world Free Network would look like, from a high-level perspective. The scope here are the OSI layers 1, 2, and 3 of a permanent, non-mobile network; sort of a community owned and operated wireless internet service provider. Other types of service could be built on top of this infrastructure, and the components could be re-used or adapted for other purposes. The picture will probably look very different in early stages of roll out. This just describes the "default" infrastructure and use cases.

It would be great to eventually flush out this page into a more formal request for comment (RFC) style document.

The Free network architecture documents the original (June 2011) stack/architecture vision, including a narrative of roll out

The Hardware Stack

This framing focuses on the geographic scale, ownership, and PHY (physical layer: the cables, radios, devices) technologies involved, while glossing over authentication and access, naming and addressing, specific software and protocols, etc.

These names stand for the role a component plays in the network, not a specific implementation of that role. Sometimes several hardware devices would be required to fill a role, sometimes one piece of hardware could fill multiple roles.


Geographic Scope: individual, building unit

Network Role: personal server; sometimes LAN router and end-device access point

Ownership: personally owned


Geographic Scope: unit-building-neighborhood scope. Single through dozens of end users per node.

Network Role: neighborhood-area wireless mesh node; router between downstream LAN and upstream neighborhood mesh network

Ownership: personally or communal owned


Geographic Scope: block, neighborhood, village. "US Census Track", dozens through hundreds of end users per tower.

Network role: router/gateway between a downstream local wireless mesh and an upstream wireless back-haul network

Ownership: communal or operator owned


Geographic Scope: Municipality, county, regional scope. Thousands through 100k end users per link.

Network role: router/gateway between a downstream wireless back-haul network, upstream/peer both directly to the incumbent internet (via BGP peering, paid if necessary) and a secure, decentralized global network

Ownership: communal or operator owned

Alternative Network-Oriented Framing

Another way to frame/understand the full stack would be to look at the network "zones" or "layers" or "areas" (not sure what word to use). The hardware-framed picture is much clearer and better defined.

Local Area Network

Link/Site-local networks connecting end user devices to FreedomBoxes and FreedomNodes.

Neighborhood Area Network

Neighborhood/Municipal mesh networks of FreedomNodes with FreedomTowers as coordinating super nodes and uplinks. FreedomNodes and FreedomBoxes could also act as uplinks using incumbent ISPs during early roll out?

Municipal Area Network

Back-haul network between FreedomTowers and upstream to FreedomLinks. Meshed? Distinct from other mesh?

Wide Area Network

Inter-Region/Global routing of packets. Initially through a secure, decentralized network overlaid on top of the incumbent global internet (corporate/government ownership and control). Ultimately via fiber or direct long-range wireless links.