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[liberationtech] Modern FIDONET for net disable countries?

Rafal Rohozinski r.rohozinski at
Mon Jan 7 17:04:33 PST 2013

This is a great conversation, and I really like the fact that some of these "old as new" technologies are being talked about. I spent much of early 1990s and Russia and the former Soviet Union.  Fido7 or Region 50, in Fido terms, was at one point in time the largest FidoNet network in the world! I wrote a paper about this in the mid-1990s, but the bottom line was that FidoNet that time allowed people to use Internet like technologies (email/newsgroups) avoiding the high tariff rates that were set on the Russian Internet, which at that time was UUCP/PC-based and charged for traffic by the kilobyte. The FidoNet protocols were also tenacious and worked really well crappy and very noisy aluminum wires…

However, I don't think it's practical to go back to the days of old style alternative networks. This is because in the intervening 20 or
years, telecommunication carriers have evolved from purveyors of wires and switches, that availed themselves to overlay networks like the Internet, to becoming the intelligent network in and of themselves.  The intelligence migrated from the edges to the core of the network. Telecom carriers now run all-IP core networks, and with advanced DPI, they can detect data signals on voice circuits. That means the opportunity of hiding data traffic on virtual voice switched networks isn't as practical as it once was. I think there's still a future for wireless-based alternative networks. And by that I don't mean satellite (BGAN or VSAT), but long-distance directional Wi-Fi, and even old fashioned IP over VHF/HF. There are challenges here, not least of which that these kinds of wireless radio networks are good targets for RDF. But in some respects, fishing for signals in the ether is a lot more challenging than detecting them on the wire.


PS. Any one wanting to read my old paper of on the Russian Internet in the 1990's can find it here:

The part about Fidonet starts around page 11.

IP over VHF : ... In the late 1990's the UN (WFP) used a system like this for Deep Field communications in Africa's Great Lakes regions

Sent by PsiPhone mobile. Please excuse typos or other oddities.

On 2013-01-07, at 6:34 PM, "Gary Garriott  (ggarriott at INTERNEWS.ORG)"
<ggarriott at> wrote:

> FWIW, over the weekend I discovered I still have an unused SEAdog package dating from the late eighties. SEAdog was a commercial adaptation of the Fidonet Electronic Mail Protocol and which for a bunch of years we used extensively in another NGO to make overseas modem calls to far flung partners and associates, usually scheduled in the middle of the night. SEAdog also includes a provision for UUCP gateway addressing.
> Gary
> -----Original Message-----
> From: liberationtech-bounces at [mailto:liberationtech-bounces at] On Behalf Of Rich Kulawiec
> Sent: Sunday, January 06, 2013 4:57 PM
> To: liberationtech
> Subject: Re: [liberationtech] Modern FIDONET for net disable countries?
> On Thu, Dec 27, 2012 at 01:21:38PM -0500, Miles Fidelman wrote:
>> That's a rather intriguing concept, though I might look at starting
>> from UUCP & NNTP, or perhaps BITNET, rather than the FIDO model - the
>> software is a bit more mature, and UUCP at least is still supported.
>> Mobile devices could associate themselves, via local WiFi, when in
>> range of each other, and messages would just flow through normal news
>> exchange protocols.
> I'll second this.  Usenet is still the most successful experiment in distributed communication, it's resource-frugal (after all, it was developed at a time when we thought 1200 baud modems were speedy), it's highly resilient, it's delay-tolerant, it's scalable, it's agnostic about transport, and it supports undirected broadcast communication -- something useful when trying to evade traffic analysis.  It supports bidirectional mail<->news gateways, it runs on minimal hardware, and among other things, it could be used to provide prolific news feeds (albeit with some delay) into areas that are heavily censored.
> ---rsk
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