Governments and corporations have more control over the Internet than ever. Now digital activists want to build an alternative network that can never be blocked, filtered or shut down.
The Internet was designed to be a decentralized system: every node should connect to many others. This design helped to make the system resistant to censorship or outside attack. Yet in practice, most individual users exist at the edges of the network, connected to others only through their Internet service provider (ISP). Block this link, and Internet access disappears. An alternative option is beginning to emerge in the form of wireless mesh networks, simple systems that connect end users to one another and automatically route around blocks and censors. Yet any mesh network needs to hit a critical mass of users before it functions well; developers must convince potential users to trade off ease of use for added freedom and privacy.