Newport Wireless Mesh, 2021 Annual Report
Five years on and we are still here! Our success this year has been due to the time, material and financial support of ordinary people, making Newport Wireless Mesh a truly community project.
In 2021 we transitioned completely to using The 99 Gallery and Center space as a mesh office, workshop and place for people to use the internet, computers, the printer and books. We tallied 716 visits from people using the internet either on their own computer or on ours, using the printer or coming in for help with using a computer or the internet. As more people got used to wearing masks and were vaccinated we allowed “drop-ins”, space permitting.
This year our neighbors donated six older but still-usable desktops and laptops to be passed on to others. We placed three donated and refurbished laptops with community members, provided range extenders for the Governor Prouty Mansion housing and donated a desktop and peripherals to start-up non-profit the Arnold Rescue Center in Brownington.
One mesh family received free internet thanks to a scholarship donation. Another household received free internet in return for serving as a relay for their neighbors.
Many thanks to our volunteers, Tom Farrow, Roland Blais, Paul Poulin, Christine Carrington, Eileen Kennedy and Thadd Beebe and advisors Fred Wiseman, Martin Kennedy and Jennifer Hopkins. We started logging volunteeer hours in July. Over the six months volunteers donated 64 hours of their time.
A special thanks goes to our access point and relay hosts the United Church of Newport, Rene Cotnoir, Eleanor and Albert Leger, Frank Knoll, Shane Lantagne, Colleen Moroe de Ortiz and Anibal Ortiz, Rural Edge, Memphremagog Rentals, Tammi Smith and Butterfly Kisses Childcare Center. These individuals and organizations demonstrate the community spirit that makes our project possible.
We want to thank Lisa Jordan for her service on the board as treasurer. Sadly, we lost board member Mary Alice Brenner, an always upbeat and tireless mesh supporter, to cancer. We added Tammi Monfette and Paul Dreher to the board, joining Colleen Moore de Ortiz, Diane Peel and Peter Lewis (a.k.a artist Lewisone).
In addition to subscribers’ contributions, the mesh was sustained by the financial support of many generous individuals. We can’t thank these folks enough.
2021 was the Year of the Upgrade. Thanks to donations from Martin Kennedy of Laboratory B in Burlington,, Vermont, we completed replacing all of Gl.inets with Cisco Merakis. We upgraded all the access points and relays and all the outdoor secondary access point routers (but one) to Meraki MR16 boards in Meraki MR62 or MR66 weatherproof cases provided by Martin. Thadd Beebe adapted the Meraki boards to work with the outdoor cases. Most of our routers are now using the most recent version of OpenWrt as their base firmware. The result of the upgrades has been an improvement in performance and better service for subscribers.
Along with the upgrades we saw a decrease and finally end to a down router problem that plagued the system for a year and a half. We installed automatic reboots on some of the routers to refresh the routers’ memories and prevent low-memory downs. Our goal is to improve reliability and reduce the amount of hands-on time necessary to manage the routers.
We successfully transferred three access points to a 5 Ghz mesh. There are more non-overlapping channels in the 5 Ghz range and less competition from other devices, reducing interference. The result has been fasterand more stable connections for these access points.
We added one new double access point at the bottom of Prospect Street hosted by property owner Rene Cotnoir.
Anticipating growth in 2022, we renegotiated our contract with Consolidated to increase our EDIA fiber optic backhaul to 80 Mbps.
In order to help our subscribers make better and safer use of the internet, we produced twelve short animated videos about the internet which were sent to them monthly via text as well as making them available on YouTube, where they can be found at “Secrets of the Mesh.”
Exiciting possibilities are on the horizon. Martin Kennedy is working on putting our firmware on an Extreme Networks router with transmission power up to 26 dBm. If successful these routers will increase range and decrease interference.
We’ve begun conversations with Rick Ufford-Chase who is working with the Newport City Downtown Development Group about providing public wifi to Main Street and customers of downtown businesses. The downtown merchants are interested in exploring this. The system would be entirely separate from our residential wireless and will give Martin a chance to implement some new ideas he is working on.
Our challenge for 2022 will be to increase our subscribership. With increased backhaul capability, tenaccess points and one more planned for 2022,and improved service, we have laid the groundwork for growth. A major goal for 2022 should be to add a Subscriber Relations volunteer to coordinate this effort.
2021 has been a year of improvements. We plan to continue in this direction in 2022.
——– Diane Peel, Director and Project Coordinator