connect / 2016

LA on the L.A.M.M: Learning Angels' Mega-Mesh

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Data Roads Foundation

Combining communications technologies like Mega-MIMO 2.0 and distributed Mesh networking will allow LA learning institutions, including our schools and libraries, to teach us both online and off.

Are any other organizations collaborating on this proposal?, Friends of the Library, LAUSD, LACC, LA Museums

Please describe your project proposal.

Mega-MIMO 2.0 WiFi coordination can take place over multi-medium Mesh networks including WiGig, fiber, beam antennas, ethernet, and broadband over powerlines. This allows a Mega-Mesh to start with a small number of public institutions, with distributed local hosting of teaching tools such as online encyclopedias and coursework. Rather than depending on far away cloud providers, e-media or courseware owned by any library can be shared directly over its local Mega-Mesh.

Which of the connect metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • Access to free wifi
  • Cultural events
  • Public/open streets gatherings
  • Government responsiveness to residents’ needs
  • Public transit riders
  • Participation in neighborhood councils
  • Rates of volunteerism
  • Residential segregation
  • Total number of local social media friends and connections Angelenos have
  • Voting rates

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • County of Los Angeles
  • City of Los Angeles
  • Northeast LA

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to connect?

Too often, the Internet is seen as this big cloud of stuff very far away, where the only way to access it all is via the incumbent Big Telco or Big Cable gatekeeper, at whatever high prices they want. In reality, ‘Internet’ is just shorthand for ‘interconnected networks’, and anyone can build and own a small network without paying any monthly fees. Once anyone connects their own network with any neighbors’, they are considered peers on their own inter-net. Unfortunately, that first incorrect view has been written into a lot of our utility and connection laws, including FCC E-Rate restrictions on the kinds of network services our public schools and libraries can afford.

The combination of new Mega-MIMO 2.0 WiFi and distributed Mesh technologies may allow us to fix these problems with Internet ownership and E-Rate restrictions, and allow local community learning resources to thrive over a local Mega-Mesh both online and off. With enough hardware funding for an experimental Learning Angels’ Mega-Mesh (LAMM) network, Los Angeles institutions could become the first place where community teaching tools are distributed, instead of the last place community members search for vanishing scarce free WiFi.

If enough prototype hardware is funded for at least 2 site installations, local Los Angeles learning institutions will all be eligible to apply to be one of the first sites with a seed Mega-Mesh. More funding or less expensive prototype hardware will allow us to accept more local institutions into the prototype test phase. Distributed mesh services can replace centralized or cloud library and e-media services on these Mega-Meshes, to directly serve community members, and depend less on remote gatekeepers.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

Schools, libraries, and museums currently use WiFi access points (AP) that get worse as more patrons connect to them, and they don’t help at all with distributing learning resources in local caches. This means each additional patron connection puts more strain on the local network and its E-Rate subsidized Internet connection, so that it slows to a crawl or even breaks very often.

MIMO WiFi technologies use more than one antenna to beam connections to each new patron, which means net performance should actually increase as patrons are added. Mega-MIMO 2.0, as defined by MIT researchers, coordinates multiple AP’s to make one big virtual MIMO AP, with more antenna and beam diversity as each AP is added. Combined with mesh routing methods, this allows existing WiFi antennae resources to connect with patrons much faster and farther out. These improvements are from better software, not expensive hardware. Our tests of WiFi speed, range, reliability, and costs should all improve accordingly.

Once any Mega-Mesh extends beyond a host institution’s walls, patrons who run Mega-Mesh software on their devices can also join in to grow the net even wider. As it grows into entire communities, local library and e-media resources hosted on the Mega-Mesh can be spread around these communities faster at lower costs. Event calendars and other locally sourced data can all stay local, including during emergencies. Speed and reliability of tested services should all improve as well.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money
  • Volunteers
  • Advisors/board members
  • Staff
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles etc.)
  • Education/training
  • Technical infrastructure (computers etc.)
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support
  • Quality improvement research
  • Start your own community network co-ops!