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Subject: [IP] more on Katrina and the folly of trusting cell phones

  • From: David Farber <>
  • To: Ip Ip <>
  • Date: Fri, 02 Sep 2005 06:19:20 -0400

Begin forwarded message:

From: Bob Frankston <>
Date: September 1, 2005 1:03:45 PM EDT
To: 'Lauren Weinstein' <>
Cc:, 'Dewayne Hendricks' <>, &quot;'David P. Reed'&quot; <>
Subject: RE: [IP] Katrina and the folly of trusting cell phones

I agree that I'm positing something that isn't available now or at least I
don't think it is as a &quot;just works&quot; box but there are projects working on

The idea itself isn't intrinsically complex but there is a danger if it's
mandated as a standard engineering project with the requirement of
guaranteed and certifiable performance and pandering to FCC mythology. The
complexities arise when one tries to be very efficient or to be too clever
and try to design to infinite battery life or other extreme criteria. I do
think one must think about security issues but even simple is best.

I don't want to do the engineering here but will try to write it up in more
detail and encourage others to think about it.

The problem with the hardened approach is that it doesn't allow dynamic
problem solving -- it assumes hierarchical authority. Small versions can
operate as handsets and allow everyone to participate. Yes, as I write this
it sounds idealistic but my engineering hat also sees a simple device and
there's the investor hat ...

-----Original Message-----
From: Lauren Weinstein []
Sent: Thursday, September 01, 2005 12:44
To: Bob Frankston
Cc:; 'Lauren Weinstein'; 'Dewayne Hendricks'; 'David P.
Subject: Re: [IP] Katrina and the folly of trusting cell phones

Expensive dedicated radios are just as bad as 9/11 demonstrated.


Dedicated radios certainly can have their drawbacks.  However, I feel
that calling them &quot;just as bad&quot; is inappropriate.  There were lots
of radio problems on 9/11, but there wasn't a total shutdown of
communications on most of those radios.  At least dedicated radios
can often provide some degree of contact during such situations, and
a relatively small number of centralized, dedicated repeaters can be
hardened with reasonable backup power supplies and generators.  But
for most cell phone users, when the power goes out and the
microcells run down, they're totally cut off.

As I keep pointing out we need are simple packet radios that


configure into a mesh and connect via whatever transport including
satellite links. If they are packaged properly and can use various


of power ranging from batteries to solar to &quot;whatever&quot; then they can be
deployed from the air.

There is certainly merit in such concepts. However, my &quot;complexity alarm&quot; starts to trigger when I think about the actual deployment and use of such systems in real-world situations. The farther we get from KISS (&quot;Keep It Simple Stupid&quot;) engineering principles in emergency systems, the greater the concern. I'm not convinced that the &quot;simple packet radios&quot; such as you describe wouldn't turn out to be anything but simple by the time they were actually designed and deployed.

Lauren Weinstein or or
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800
Co-Founder, PFIR
  - People For Internet Responsibility -
Co-Founder, EEPI
  - Electronic Entertainment Policy Initiative -
Moderator, PRIVACY Forum -
Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren's Blog:

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