My name is James, I’m from London. I’m in Cairo, Egypt working for an NGO distributing food, watter and other supplies. Even as efficient as our operations can be, I find myself sitting in the alley behind our temporary facility most of the time reading. I can’t use my cell phone or my laptop, so I’m reading a paper I found.
I notice a young man, maybe 19 years old run into the alley with a backpack, he’s wearing shades and a dark hoodie. Obviously trying to avoid attention. People watching is something I enjoy about my work.
He’s drinking water and looking up at rooftops, up and down the alley. After a few moments he approaches me, and hits me up for a smoke. I give him one, then hesitantly ask him what is story his.
He says he’s a TeleHash node runner.
Confused I ask, what the fuck is a Telehash node runner?
My backpack is setup with a small server, battery pack and ability to connect to wireless networks. The server is setup to be a TeleHash switch, which is a wire protocol for sending and receiving small bits of data. My job is to run around with this backpack and not get caught. I stay in the field for 36 hours max, then I have to go back to a “power station” for new batteries for my server.
What kind of messages are sent through your backpack?
I don’t know. It could be anything. It could be small bits of encrypted messages, it could be links to file locations, it could a link to just about anything. Its just my job to send / receive the small transmissions.
Where do you find wireless networks? I haven’t been on the Internet in days, where are you finding wifi?
I get wifi from last mile runners, they have a similar job as mine. The run around with backpacks that are configured to create hotspots. They receive last mile Internet feeds through line of site connections which they find by being on roof tops on in high places, and convert these into wifi cells. The wifi cells don’t have a visible SSID, so unless you know about them you won’t find them. My TeleHash node server is setup to look for specific wifi frequency and SSID to connect. A TeleHash node runners job is to be mobile then find safe spots they can setup to send and receive messages. A last mile runner’s job is to run around find safe spots they can set up and receive line of site Internet and broadcast wifi hotspots us node runners, and others can use.
What other people are there?
There are potentially hundreds of other content people that are given hand-helds for taking pictures and videos and just reporting on whats going on. Some people just send information and some people just receive instructions or logistics.
Ok...so where do the last mile runners get their Internet?
They are constantly on the look of for metropolitan area network (MAN) nodes. These are larger installations primary vehicle based that roam around the mountains and hilltops out side of the city. They require a lot more power and receive line of site broadband from other MAN nodes up to 40 miles away or eventually a fixed broadband provider connected to fiber or other physical or satellite Internet.
It may take multiple MAN nodes on hilltops to bridge to Banha, Tanta or maybe all the way to the coast at Alexandria. We may have hundreds of vehicles creating several redundant Internet backbones from where-ever the nearest Internet provider might be. Could be an ISP in Egypt flying under radar, across the border in Israel or could be a ship in the Mediterranean that is rebroadcasting a satellite feed.
I’m not trained all those operations. My job is to run around the city and make sure my TeleHash node sends and receives as many messages as it can. I’m just one node in a larger vision to keep information flowing in an area where the Internet has been cut-off or is not available.