By Mark Gavin.
These days we have wifi hotspots on buses, on trains, why not an entire village?
Over the past few months I've been investigating the possibility of turning the village of Cong into one big wifi hotspot.
When I first thought of the idea I investigated repourposing old wifi routers by installing DD-WRT onto them and turning them into cheap wifi repeaters.Recently however during a conversation with a friend we got to talking about routers and networking, as you do, and she mentioned nodes.
This was a lightbulb moment for me and I immediately thought of creating a wireless mesh network instead.
A wireless mesh network is a much more suitable network structure for larger area networks containing more than a handful of nodes. Each node can communicate with the base station but can also communicate with other nodes within range, what this facilitates is a self healing network where if one node goes offline for some reason the other nodes around it can automatically re-route to maintain connectivity within the remaining nodes. This allows for easier maintenance and repair of faulty nodes which can be taken offline without much impact on the rest of the network.
A few years ago creating a wireless mesh network would cost a few thousand per node, not any more. For example the popular Open-Mesh OM2P (400-600ft range outdoors) can be bought for $75/70EUR. For a network of this size a low powered PC (Intel NUC) running pfSense would be able to handle all firewall, DHCP, domain blacklist/whitelist duties.
With the help of local businesses each hosting a node we could have internet connectivity wherever we are in Cong. As a unique selling point I think this would benefit the village greatly.
 DD-WRT is a Linux based firmware for home routers, it adds features/options which are often not available with the OEM firmware
 pfSense is a FreeBSD based operating system which has all the features of very expensive firewalls/routers which can be installed on relatively modest hardware.