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Solution Overview

Freenet provides true wireless broadband service throughout the City of Lawrence and beyond. The organization is proposing a working relationship with the City of Lawrence that will allow children within the community to access the Internet anywhere, anytime, free.


The proposed service will begin beta testing in August of 2008 and, with parental permission, will be made available to any child in the community on August 1, 2009.


Students and members will be provided with a high speed Internet connection, phone support and on-site support. Students will also be provided, as much as is technically possible, with a safe environment in which to surf the web.

Child Safety

One of the most important aspects of the Freenet-Kids initiative is the commitment by the Freenet staff to provide a network environment that conforms to community standards. Children are curious and their curiosity has been known to lead them astray. By providing a network that is filtered by network engineers, Lawrence Freenet will help to ensure that access to online gambling and other inappropriate materials is restricted.


Though the Lawrence Freenet vendors and staff are experts in network engineering and can implement a content filtering strategy, they do not represent the entire community. To ensure that the filtering policy selected conforms to community standards, the organization will invite local children's groups to help establish a filtering policy. Included in these groups will be:


  • Lawrence Police Department
  • PTA
  • USD497
  • City Attorney's Office
  • Headquarters
  • Bert Nash
  • The Lawrence Education Association
  • Juvenile Justice Authority
  • Success by Six
  • Douglas County Children's Development Association


Freenet hopes to develop a policy that is broadly applicable by drawing from the expertise of a diverse group of secular community organizations. As part of the technical solution, the organization also plans to allow parents to add filtering rules for their children, allowing them flexibility and control over their child's online behavior.

1.1.        Support

Lawrence Freenet makes use of cutting edge customer relations management (CRM) software to process customer requests and monitor quality of service.


This software gives customer service representatives the ability to access to real-time network statistics. Agents can obtain performance data on the nearest five access points from within the member's account, remotely access the member's modem, and if necessary dispatch a technician to remedy the issue.


Lawrence Freenet currently staffs customer Text Box:  Lawrence Freenet CRM System gives support agents real time information.service representatives from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. seven days a week.


Based on the current volume of customer service and technical support phone calls Freenet anticipates approximately 30,500 additional contacts being made within the first year of service. Lawrence Freenet will staff an additional 5 full time customer-service representatives to handle this call volume.


In addition, the organization will provide 5 full-time on-site support staff. These staff will be responsible for providing support for the Freenet-Kids network.


The Lawrence Freenet Project will also provide scheduled support at the Freenet offices on Saturdays.

Network Throughput

The network that Lawrence Freenet has developed has been developed to deliver 1,024 Kbps of bi-directional data under nominal network load. This means that under normal usage (5-10 clients/wireless access point) the network is designed to provide approximately 1,024 Kbps of Internet TCP/IP traffic to each network user.


This said, the organization is constantly making improvements to the network to try and exceed this goal. In some areas, access is much faster than this, and in some areas network throughput is slower. Over time the organization will continue to improve coverage, throughput and the quality of its service.


The current Lawrence Freenet network makes use of a 300 Mbps wireless link operating between Lawrence, Kansas and the organization's City Center Square POP in downtown Kansas City. This link runs at 10% capacity and provides around 30Mbps of data to Freenet's members in the City of Lawrence. The link has a historic reliability of 99.99%. Redundant connectivity is provided via two circuits the organization leases from SBC.


To provide adequate data for the roughly 10,000 students, and 7,000 additional paid members the organization will lease a fiber-optic cable between Lawrence, Kansas, and downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Total capacity on this fiber-optic cable will be 1 Gbps, allowing the organization to increase network capacity by a factor of 3. The organization's existing 300 Mbps wireless link would then become the secondary, fail over, connection.


Bandwidth for Lawrence Freenet will be purchased from Cogent Communications. Based on current user data, the organization anticipates a need for 15 Kbps of backbone connectivity for each network user. This means that in order to serve both paying members and the students, the organization would purchase around 300 Mbps of bandwidth at the Kansas City demarcation point.


Aggregate data throughput for approximately 2,000 devices on the Freenet network


The demarcation point for this data will likely be the Bryant Network Operations Center (NOC) located at 1102 Grand Ave, where Freenet will lease space for the requisite switching. The organization already leases space in the City Center Square building which will continue to be used to house the backup link to Lawrence.

Wireless Coverage

Lawrence Freenet currently provides wireless broadband coverage over approximately 60% of the Lawrence community. This coverage encompasses the areas of the community that are most likely to host student housing, specifically large apartment complexes and other multi-family dwelling units.

Improving Coverage

As part of its commitment to provide Universal Internet access in Lawrence, Freenet is constantly expanding its wireless coverage within the community. In the last year alone the organization's network has expanded from around 50 high power access points to well over 550.


Coverage Expansion January-November 2007


Over the course of the next year the organization plans to increase this number even further by adding approximately 400 additional access points. These access points are being installed specifically to enable the organization to provide reliable high speed coverage for students. With radio costs of approximately $2,100/radio this increase in coverage represents an investment of $840,000 on the part of the organization.


Coupled with a large investment in underground fiber-optic cable the organization will be capable of delivering high quality service to 95% of the Lawrence community.


What about the other 5%? The 5% of the community that will not be covered as part of the project are areas that do not have the required infrastructure to support a wireless network of this type. These areas include:


  • Neighborhoods without utility poles or street lights.
  • Interior of buildings made of unfriendly materials.
  • Private property where owners do not wish to make the service available.


Members in these areas of the community will not be able to use a laptop computer to access the network directly, however, the organization will still able to provide broadband service via an outdoor CPE mounted on the side of the home. Outdoor CPE devices are discussed in greater detail below.


One of the key features that the Freenet network will bring to Lawrence is mobility. Students and members will have true broadband Internet access anywhere within the Lawrence community. Members can use the service at their home, at their jobs, while out and about on Massachusetts St. and even from the passenger seat of a moving car.


Mobility is a key demand of modern students.


With the advent of mobile computing devices like the iPhone, this will give students and members access to network resources, e-mail, as well as friends and family anywhere within the community.

WiFi Standard

The Freenet network makes use of the 802.11g standard which means that members do not need to have a cable modem, or DSL modem to access the Internet. Members can access the web using any WiFi enabled device, including a laptop computer, an iPhone or a PDA.


The use of standards based technology means that members have a choice as to which devices they want to use and how they are going to use them.


WiFi is increasingly available in a variety of devices.

Customer Premise Equipment (CPE)

For a network user to get onto a traditional cable or DSL network they need to have a modem to translate the signal generated by the Internet Service Provider (ISP) into an Ethernet signal that can be understood by the computer.


To use the Freenet network, most members can simply use their These cards are rapidly becoming ubiquitous in electronic equipment; however, some desktop computers do not come with built in wireless adapters.


There are also cases where a member might live in a concrete basement, isolated residence or other location that is not conducive to providing wireless broadband service.


For these members, Freenet provides a CPE solution that translates the wireless signal generated by the WiFi network into an Ethernet signal that can be understood by the computer.


These devices are sold at cost ($121) and have a high power wireless transmitter that enables them to provide service in locations where the wireless signal might be weak or degraded. These devices are fully supported by the organization and can be installed by a trained technician upon request from the member. The units can also be debugged and supported through the organization's customer relations management suite, making it easy to identify and correct problems for members in a short time frame.


Supported CPE Device - PePwave Surf


The organization also provides an outdoor solution, much like a satellite dish, that can bring the wireless signal into the home from a distant WiFi node. These outdoor units can provide quality service for users who are up to 1,000 ft. from the nearest WiFi access point.


Outdoor CPE


As part of its commitment to providing quality service to the community, Freenet is currently working on a less expensive version of each of these CPE devices which will be available in the spring of 2008. These devices are based on open source technology and will be available to members at the organization's wholesale cost. One advantage to using official CPE devices is that they are fully supported by the organization's support staff and installation technicians. This means that any time a device fails or breaks the organization replaces them free of charge.


To provide reliable coverage for the community, Freenet plans to make a significant investment in expanding and upgrading its already extensive infrastructure. Key improvements include:


  • Expanding coverage within apartment complexes
  • Covering areas with low population density
  • Installing a fiber-optic backbone
  • Installing additional access points

Expanding Apartment Complex Coverage

To effectively serve students and members requires the installation of wireless equipment at the apartment complexes in which many residents live. To make these installations, the organization must have an agreement with the complex owner allowing them to install the equipment, use complex power and perform regular maintenance.


Over the past two years, Freenet has negotiated agreements with over 50 apartment complexes in the Lawrence area, including complexes managed by Meadowbrooke, Midwest Property Management, Nolan Reality, Gage Management and many others.


As part of any agreement with the City of Lawrence, Freenet would commit to further expanding its apartment complex agreements to include any complex in which a student or member wants coverage.


Freenet's agreements with apartment complexes are structured to make it easy for complex owners and managers to say yes. Installations are performed free of charge and are done in a professional and well-planned manner.

Low Density Housing

As an organization dedicated to bringing the Internet to everyone in the community, regardless of income, Freenet's original network rollout skipped areas where housing density was too low to justify the expense of installing coverage. For example, coverage was not deployed in the Alvamar Country Club neighborhood.


Freenet coverage in Alvamar neighborhood.


As part of the organization's commitment to providing 95% coverage throughout the City of Lawrence, coverage will be deployed in neighborhoods that were not deployed during the initial network rollout.

Fiber-optic Cable

Freenet is the first and only municipal WiFi network to be deployed entirely on wireless technology. The current network makes use of wireless links at every layer of the network, from its primary connection to the internet (a 37 mile link) to the tower interconnects (2 mile links) to end user service (200ft links).


The infrastructure that the organization is using has significant redundancy built in. At each and every layer of the service network user traffic has multiple potential routes to the Internet.


What that means is that the organization has been able to construct a reliable service using wireless connections.


Though this approach has worked well for the organization to date, the influx of tens of thousands of high-demand users will flood the network with more traffic than the existing all-wireless infrastructure can support.


To avoid this problem, the organization plans to make a significant investment in underground fiber-optic cable. Lawrence Freenet is planning on installing approximately 25.6 miles of fiber within Lawrence. This cable will act as an enhanced backbone network connecting the organization's existing POPs and extending 100Mbps backhaul connections to approximately 83 mesh gateways throughout the City of Lawrence.


Proposed Fiber Routes

An interactive version of this map is available at:


The organization now has firm bids on this portion of the project from a reputable contractor which total $1,963,500.

Access Points - Mesh Networking

To provide user level coverage, the organization uses 400mW mesh radio equipment connected to light poles, roof tops, traffic control signals and apartment buildings. These radios are distributed throughout the community and make use of mesh networking protocols to connect subscribers to the Internet.


Mesh networking is a recent innovation in wireless technology, allowing organizations like Lawrence Freenet to build municipal scale wireless networks.


In a mesh networking environment each radio acts as a potential Internet gateway for every other radio in the vicinity. This means that even though an individual radio (node) is not connected to the Internet directly, it can still relay data to the Internet by sending it to a neighboring node. That neighboring node is either directly connected to the Internet and able to send the traffic, or it relays the data to another neighboring node that is. Confused? Have a look at the following diagram.


Mesh Networking

The overall result is a network in which only one out of every five nodes needs to be connected directly to the Internet. This significantly reduces the cost of deploying the coverage. In addition, the redundant nature of the technology means that a failure of any single node will not affect its neighbors who simply route the traffic around the outage.


To increase coverage density in Lawrence to the point that it can support students and members will require the organization to increase the number of radios from 550 to around 950. This includes significant density increases in areas where historic records show high demand such as Tennessee St. and Emory Drive. With radio costs of approximately $2,100/radio this increase in coverage represents an investment of $820,000 on the part of the organization.


One of the most common misconceptions that the public has is that wireless broadband is inherently insecure. This is largely due to mistakes that were made related to cryptography early on in the development of wireless broadband technologies.


With the advent of new cryptography standards and standards based authentication protocols, wireless networks can provide a level of security that is equivalent, and can far exceed, traditional cable or DSL networks.


The proposed security strategy for deploying wireless technologies for students within Lawrence is based on the following imperatives:


Freenet and/or Freenet systems should not have access to any student information.

All authentication information will be encrypted at the application layer prior to transmission over the network.

Students will have the choice of using secure or open wireless networks.

Secure Network

The proposed model for security is WPA2 Enterprise (802.1x) - the highest level of wireless encryption that is currently available. Under this model students use their username and password as credentials for their authentication. These accounts will be created and hosted by Lawrence Freenet on a secure LDAP server. Parents will be able to obtain accounts for their children through an application process that will be defined as the project progresses.


Enterprise Security Example


The wireless radio encrypts the username and password through a secure tunneled connection that is proxied to a RADIUS server.


Assuming the user's credentials are verified by the RADIUS server, the wireless radio then encrypts the data between the user and the radio using an AES encryption algorithm. This algorithm represents the state of the art in modern cryptography and is commonly used to secure financial information, information transfers, and is used by the CIA.

Open Network

The above detailed model makes use of WPA2-Enterprise, an encryption algorithm supported by a wide range of wireless devices. Unfortunately, many smaller wireless devices such as hand held computers and WiFi enabled phones do not have the ability to support this level of encryption.


For devices that are not capable of using WPA-Enterprise, an open network would be deployed. This network would function in much the same way as the current "Freenet" network that covers 60% of the community.


When connecting to this network, student's browsers would be re-directed to a secure gateway website. Traffic between the student's computer and the gateway is secured using a 256-bit SSL key exchange.


Students would then enter their username and password. The secure gateway would open a connection to a RADIUS server using the same exchange described above. Once the RADIUS server has verified that the user is indeed a student a port on the security gateway would open up and allow traffic from the student's computer or hand-held device out onto the Internet.


At the current time, many children in Lawrence live in households that do not have a computer. Without a computer, these students will not be able to access the Freenet-Kids network. In order to provide these students with the educational tools they need, Freenet proposed that the City of Lawrence work in concert with the the Lazarus Project, Inc. to expand the reuse of legacy public equipment here in Lawrence Kansas.


Freenet has given away dozens of computers to qualified families over the course of its first two years of operations. Most of these computers were originally donated by the City of Lawrence, the University of Kansas or the Lazarus Project. These organizations can help reduce toxic waste and promote a community with universal Internet access by formalizing the recycling process and making recycled computers available to families throughout the community.


Freenet is currently working with the Lazarus Project to expand its computer refurbishing effort and will commit to providing 2,000 computers to students as part of this project.


As part of its financial commitment to the project, Freenet will also provide 375 new laptops to qualified children within the community each year.


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