Final Briefing Document: Public Networks for Public Safety: A Workshop on the Present and Future of Mesh Networks

35 Pages Posted: 26 May 2012 Last revised: 20 Oct 2012

Alicia Solow-Niederman

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Kevin Tsai

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Andrew G. Crocker

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Jonathan L. Zittrain

Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government; Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Berkman Center for Internet & Society; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: March 30, 2012

Abstract

This briefing document was developed as part of a March 30, 2012 workshop entitled “Public Networks for Public Safety: A Workshop on the Present and Future of Mesh Networking,” hosted by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. The event provided a starting point for conversation about whether mesh networks could be adopted within consumer technologies to enhance public safety communications and empower and connect the public while simultaneously improving public safety. Participants in this initial convening included members of government agencies, academia, the telecommunications industry, and civil society organizations; their helpful inputs were integral to the final version of this document.

Building on the dialogue at this gathering, this briefing document seeks to: sketch a broad overview of mobile ad hoc networks (MANETs) and mesh technologies; identify critical technical issues and questions regarding the communications effectiveness of those technologies; explain how public safety communications relate to mesh and offer a synopsis of current regulations affecting those communications; describe a set of basic use cases that emerged from the conference; map out stakeholders at the technical, regulatory, legal, and social levels, and associated interests, points of connection, and potential challenges; catalog select examples and, where possible, highlight potential next steps and areas for short term action; and, summarize key takeaways from the conference, with an emphasis on shared principles or best practices that might inform participants’ diverse efforts to improve communications affordances for the public and the public safety community.

The paper also synthesizes several strains of workshop discussion that probed big picture framing concerns that could inform the present and future of mesh. Specifically, it puts forth two related but distinct models for mesh: mesh in a technical sense and mesh as a metaphor or social layer construct, with a particular emphasis on the need for further conceptual development with regard to “social mesh.” The final section emphasizes key take-aways from the event, highlighting core principles and best practices that might both provide a theoretical underpinning for the future conceptual development of mesh networking technologies and social mesh models, respectively, and inform the real-world development of communications systems that involve either definition of mesh.

The Berkman Center thanks all of the workshop attendees both for their participation during the event and for comments offered during the development of this briefing document. Berkman Center Project Coordinator Alicia Solow-Niederman worked closely with Professor Jonathan Zittrain to plan and execute this event as well as to produce this briefing document. Berkman Center Research Assistants Andrew Crocker and Kevin Tsai provided exceptional research and contributions to this briefing document, and June Casey contributed indispensable support with background research.

Suggested Citation

Solow-Niederman, Alicia and Tsai, Kevin and Crocker, Andrew G. and Zittrain, Jonathan L., Final Briefing Document: Public Networks for Public Safety: A Workshop on the Present and Future of Mesh Networks (March 30, 2012). Berkman Center Research Publication No. 2012-12; Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 12-22. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2066586

Alicia Solow-Niederman (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/people/aliciasn

Kevin Tsai

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Andrew G. Crocker

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Jonathan Zittrain

Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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