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140. Chebucto Wireless

By Andrew D. Wright

People can make a difference.

Fourteen years ago a group of ordinary people gathered together to create something Nova Scotia had never seen before: a non-profit, community-run, locally operated Internet Service Provider.

Thanks to the Chebucto Community Net, tens of thousands of people and hundreds of local organizations in Halifax have gotten access to vital tools of communication.

Now Nova Scotia's oldest Internet Service Provider is setting up something new. Non-profit, community-run highspeed Internet access.

Halifax is not like most Canadian cities. Here there are only two providers of residential highspeed Internet access. In most cities there are a number of Internet Service Providers and people have more choices available to them.

Some people, especially those on fixed incomes, and some community groups simply do not have the resources to cover the cost of Internet access. This is what is called the digital divide, the gap between those able to get or afford Internet access and those who cannot.

Whose child will do better at school? The one with home Internet access or the one who has to wait their turn on a public terminal?

Chebucto Community Net wants to work with members of the community - that's you! - to create a highspeed wireless access unlike anything done anywhere else.

The Internet connection is distributed through wireless nodes; modified computers that use less electricity than a regular home computer, hosted in peoples' homes. Three well-placed nodes would provide a low-rise city block (and facing blocks) with wireless Internet access. They have a range of about half a block in signal and interference rich urban areas.

Chebucto Community Net's Chebucto Wireless service provides free access to websites for local Halifax organizations as well as Halifax Regional Municipality, NS Provincial and Canadian Federal government websites.

Users with a Chebucto Plus level membership with Chebucto Community Net can access the entire Internet over a secure encrypted Virtual Private Network connection. A Chebucto Plus level membership also includes a 56K dialup connection, a 2 GB private email mailbox and costs $100 per year.

Node hosts pay only $50 a year for their Chebucto Plus membership and a $150 deposit on node hardware. The node, which is always left on, would use around $46 worth of electricity a year.

Target areas for rolling out Chebucto Wireless access are low-rise residential areas with a clear, line-of-sight view of the top of Fenwick Place, the tallest building in Halifax. There would have to be about ten to fifteen nodes to serve a neighbourhood, each spaced about half a block apart.

Check the map linked below to see node hosting applicants and where live nodes are. Where, how and even if the Chebucto Wireless coverage expands will completely depend upon you and your neighbours coming forward to help build this network. It has no outside funding. The community in Chebucto Community Net is you.

People who own their own homes or are in a stable long-term rental situation should consider hosting a wireless node. There's an application form on the Chebucto Wireless website. No technical knowledge is required, just plug the node in and leave it alone.

The biggest problem with setting up such a network is letting people know about it. Without the vast public relations budget of the commercial providers or financial help from some level of government, getting the word out to people is virtually impossible.

Chebucto Community Net is a registered charity and donations are tax-deductible.


Chebucto Wireless website:


Map of Chebucto Wireless nodes and potential nodes:


The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about computing, email or click here. If we use your question in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.


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Originally published 10 October 2008


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