An Internet Alternative During A Crisis

We are all so accustomed to easy, ready access to the Internet whenever we turn our computers on. For those of us Generation Xers through the Baby Boomers, we remember our world before the Internet. Back when the closest thing to a social network was seeing our buddies at the local arcade or meeting new people over a “ham radio” (CW/shortwave/amateur radio) setup. This kind of radio setup allowed licensed amateurs to communicate with folks from all over the world. Now here is the interesting part. Amateur radio (ham) operators are still very much an active community, only with more modern equipment.

Now close your eyes for a moment and ask yourself what life would be like if the Internet went down suddenly? Clearly email, Web sites, and online video sharing would become a thing of the past. What then? Perhaps a blast from the past mixed with currently available, lesser known technology.

Airmail, D-Star, and amateur radio

Digital Smart Technologies for amateur radio or D-Star is a technology that provides the voice and data protocol that allows amateur radio enthusiasts to send/receive data/voice over an agreed upon standard.

Who would use such a thing and why? Let’s say things hit the fan during a natural disaster or we are finally invaded by the little green men from Mars. What then? The Internet is taken out of the equation, so this leaves us with with amateur radio solutions.

With a client like D-RATS for D-Star, licensed amateur radio enthusiasts can access email, chat, and other functions from a simple to use software application for Windows, OS X, and Linux users. Another program for handling amateur radio email is called AirMail2000.

Reviving the idea of Internet… minus the any centralized control

An Internet Alternative During A Crisis
Photo by mrbill

We like to think that the way the Web works, with its HTTP, DNS, and so forth, is the only way that the Internet can be used. This would be wrong. If something should happen and censorship takes over to such a degree that the Web, as we know it, should go away, perhaps using a concept called Netsukuku would be the next step?

It’s like using the Web as we know it (minus the regular DNS servers) using a Netsukuku Domain Name Architecture (ANDNA) instead. Think of this entire concept as just that: something that is still very much under development. But based on what I have read about it, this sounds fascinating.

What does all of this really mean?

To me, I’d like this to serve as a reminder that there is more to life outside of the Web as we know it. Whether it be over the airwaves or an overlay going over the existing Internet, remember that there are alternatives out there that should not be totally written off. Not only that, but the amateur radio options have been used in real life crisis situations successfully for sharing critical data such as Word files, etc. It works.

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  • Randy Crowe

    I was very glad to see this article. As a HAM and involved with Red Cross and other services we use amateur radio quite a bit in disaster situations. Sometimes more than cell phones.

    Good work and thank you.

    73
    de – Randy – N8OZY

  • Lor Kutchins

    Thanks for this article.

    A reliable global system offering radio e-mail and used by sailors at sea, expeditioners, emergency management agencies, the Military Auxiliary Radio System, ham radio operators and State and Federal agencies for both routine and emergency messaging is called Winlink 2000. It is going on twenty years old and is the leading system of its type, yet it completely free to those who qualify, and is entirely run by volunteers.

    Read about it at http://Winlink.org.

    Thanks again.

    Lor Kutchins