By now most people will have heard or read about the civil unrest in Egypt and the Egyptian government’s response of shutting down communications networks, including all Internet connectivity. This is, of course, one of the most complete forms of electronic censorship available to a totalitarian state.
Personally I think that any solution in this area will have to involve a return to a real peer-to-peer networking model, rather than the client-server networking model that is so prevalent these days. I suspect that wireless networks will be the transmission path of choice for most such networks, at least as far as maintaining communications within a region affected by a government orchestrated black-out.
I am clearly not the only one who thinks this and fortunately a great deal of work has already been done on this by wireless community groups, like Wireless.org.au. The biggest implementation of such a network, of course, is the One Laptop Per Child program’s wireless mesh network.
The tricky part is getting connectivity out of such a censored region without having to rely on telecommunications carriers or government controlled networks. The level of difficulty in resolving this aspect will almost certainly depend on the physical distance between the censored region and the nearest location able to provide Internet connectivity. Some more obvious and long used methods would have to include satellite and radio transmissions, but a tolerance for data or packet loss would be beneficial.
I do not know whether a wireless mesh network or even some other solution could be deployed in Egypt before the current crisis is resolved, but I do think that making sure the information to rapidly deploy one in the future is essential for defending human rights.