Frequently asked questions
Organised in regional groups and registered associations, Freifunk is an interest group which is dedicated to creating a comprehensive, public and free WLAN-Network. For instance, in the district of Pinneberg it's called "Freifunk Pinneberg" and in Hamburg "Freifunk Hamburg". All groups have one thing in common; they operate Freifunk without any commercial background. Freifunk works without barriers: no registration, no passwords and no time limits. Moreover, it's provider-independent and unliable to censorship. Everyone can take part, for example by setting up a node in order to extend the network. Provided that the network becomes area-wide, it will work as an ad-hoc-network and without internet providers, so to say parallel to the internet.
How does Freifunk work technically?
The network of Freifunk contains WLAN-routers (Access Points) of different producers that are commercially available, the so called nodes. Those routers are equipped with special software (Firmware) and connects itself wireless with other nodes within reach automatically (Mesh). When one of the nodes is connected to the internet, it builds up a connection to the servers (Gateways and Supernodes) through a tunnel (VPN), which makes the connection safe. The servers feature a tunneled connection to a so called VPN-exit, which provides legal security. These complex procedures should prevent the operator of the Freifunk-node from being held responsible for all actions of the users (see the following points).
All nodes within reach use the internet access described above. But, the more nodes have their own internet access, the better the load can be distributed. The users (Clients) can connect to the nodes by using devices that are capable of using WLAN (smartphones, tablets, notebooks) and then selecting the WLAN-network "pinneberg.freifunk.net". Because of the fact that all nodes in the same region have the same name (SSID), the devices looks for the node with the strongest signal automatically, provided more than one node is within reach. If you save the connection in your device, it connects to the network automatically when it is within reach of a node.
Can I see the places where Freifunk is already available?
The Freifunk Meshviewer provides you with an interactive map, which shows exactly where you can find free WLAN. If you want to become one of these nodes on the map, become a Freifunker now!
Is Freifunk Pinneberg only provided for the people living in Pinneberg?
Quite the reverse, our free internet is for everybody - regardless of whether you are a resident in that area, a tourist or a transient. Our goal is and always will be free and open internet everywhere and for everybody - in a café, in outdoor pools, in the pedestrian zone, at the doctor, at the supermarket or anything else. We would like to be an enrichment for the whole county with our network and and make a contribution to a nationwide cover with internet.
Is Freifunk only available in the county of Pinneberg?
Of course not. Freifunk is a nationwide initiative. But if you only saved the network (SSID) with the name "pinneberg.freifunk.net", it won't connect to Freifunk when you are out of the county. When travelling to a neighbouring county, you need to search for networks with the Freifunk-identification. For example, in Hamburg it's called "hamburg.freifunk.net".
Is my data safe?
For users of Freifunk applies: Every user of a WLAN is responsible for the protection of their own data in principle. The wireless access is unencrypted in the case of Freifunk. Because of this, you should take safety precautions by yourself or at least avoid controversial data transmission (for example bank transactions). What needs to be mentioned for your self protection are encrypted connections, which carry the characteristic HTTPS for websites (you can recognise it on the symbol of a lock in the address bar), and SSL/TLS for e-mails (gather information from your e-mail provider first). Ideally, you should build up your own VPN-connection to a service provider or your router at home. Also, the usage of Tor can improve your safety.
For operators applies: The area behind Freifunk-routers are not accessible for users, special protection mechanisms in the Freifunk-firmware guarantee this without exception. A remote access for administrative purposes can be arranged (but is optional).
How can I take part?
It is easy to become a so called Freifunker and everybody can take part in various ways. Because of the fact that our goal is to expand the network, you could get a suitable router, equip it with the Freifunk-firmware and connect it with a free slot of the router you already have at home. Now you contributed something important as a new part of the community. You may not only support as a private citizen, but also as a company, organisation or public institution. As an alternative to having a Freifunk-node at home, you can also support us by spreading the idea of Freifunk (to friends, neighbours, companies or organisations), producing publicity material, photos and videos, developing and expanding of the website and software and also by donating to us.
What technical requirements have to be fulfilled?
You want to become part of the network and provide Freifunk to others? If there is already a node within reach, you only need an electrical connection. If this is not the case, you need an internet connection additional to the electrical one. The Freifunk-router needs to be connected to a free LAN-port of the already existing router. Usually the router assigns an IP and the new node is "online". The technology or the provider of the internet connection are not relevant, but a steady bandwidth should be available (minimum 12 to 16 Mbit) to ensure a comfortable use. You can determine how much of your bandwidth you want to provide to others during the installation. The operator should be aware of the fact that due to the provision and usage of the network by third party devices, a certain amount of traffic is generated.
Where do I get a Freifunk-router?
You can either buy one of the many compatible models yourself and equip it with the Freifunk-firmware or you order a device from us. We always have a few different models in reserve and give them away for the same amount of money we paid for them earlier. Just contact us.
How much will this cost for me?
Simple routers, which work with the Freifunk-firmware, are already available for about 15-20 Euros (unique investment), additionally there will be about 4-6 Euros as electricity costs per year(!), but that was it. If you want to provide internet for larger areas or you expect many users at the same time (highly frequented places), you may have to position more/more powerful devices.
Are there any additional advantages if I install a Freifunk-node?
There are plenty advantages: You don't need to provide your password for your private WLAN to visitors, friends or guests, they can use the open Freifunk-WLAN instead. Alongside the open network, which is sent by the Freifunk-router, you can activate a second, private network with a password. If you configure this the same way as your existing WLAN (same SSID, same password), you can increase the coverage of your own WLAN-signal, because every device (smartphone, notebook) always looks for the strongest signal. Like this, you don't need a WLAN-repeater. If your own internet access breaks down and other nodes are within reach of your Freifunk-router, you have a plan B. And by the way, you gain karma points as a Freifunker. ;-)
Are there any concerns concerning legal processes?
Due to the current law position in germany, called "disturber liability", says that the operator of the WLAN, which doesn't require a password, is responsible for the actions taken by the users. As long as there is no solution, which is justifiable for all parties, Freifunk helps itself with VPN-exits to be on a legally secure ground (often in neighbouring countries). This way, the operator of a node stays anonymous and can't be prosecuted civilly. Like this you are safe from warnings. This is not criminally relevant because the disturber liability doesn't apply here.
What does Mesh mean?
Freifunk-nodes independently build an ad-hoc-network among themselves, they enmesh with each other, i.e. one node connects wireless to the next one, which, again, connects with the next one and so on. Every device continuously looks for likeminded devices and connects to them directly. Like this, a dynamic, but involuntarily arranged structure grows, which is considered failsafe, depending on the density of the nodes, because alternative connections exist as well. It's comparable to a goal on a football field. If a part of the goal's net is cut through or a compound is dissolved, the whole grid connection withstands, because other connections carries it.
Who do you address with your offer?
One the one hand, we would like to acquire new operators of Freifunk-Hotspots to increase the network coverage like private households, but also public places, restaurants, small garden clubs, authorities, doctors, coffee shops, retails stores, bars, beer gardens and many more. On the other hand, there are the users, who would like to use the internet with normal speed although their mobile data is used completely, for example on shopping sprees, sunbather at swimming pools, who would like to tell their friends on social media about this or even in accomodation for refugees, who try to stay in contact with their loved ones in their homeland. These are only a few examples of how Freifunk can contribute to a better way of living together.
Provider X offered me a Hotspot-package for the guests of my restaurant, what's wrong with it?
Commercial WLAN-/Hotspot-providers demand disproportionately high fees on a monthly basis and sometimes an installation rate from the provider. The advertised free access (Free Wi-Fi) is connected to a registration done by the user, sometimes it's only available for customers of provider X and mostly it's only for a limited time. This leads to a much lower usage of the WLAN-offer and frustration. Costs for operators, initial hurdles and access restriction and the contractual commitment to a specific provider are something we don't consider a proper solution. And this is where Freifunk jumps into this business with its free and consistently transparent offer.
How dows Freifunk finance itself?
At the moment the participants (administrators, supporters, volunteers) bear the cost on their own. The costs for the servers and the VPN-exits are about 70 Euros per month at the moment.
Is there an bank account I can donate to?
Because of the fact that Freifunk Pinneberg is not (yet) a registered association, we were not able to ask for donations that easily and give donation certificates to those who donated. But thanks to "Lokale Agenda 21 Pinneberg" (www.agenda21-pinneberg.de) we are now finally able to do this! They created a subaccount for us where supporters can donate for us.
Förderverein Lokale Agenda 21 e.V.
IBAN: DE20 2305 1030 0015 0792 54
Purpose of transfer (very important!): Freifunk Pinneberg
You can get a donation certificate afterwards.
We thank you for every little or even big amout of money!
You can also donate via Bitcoin directly to Freifunk Pinneberg, but we can't provide you with a donation certificate then.
Why is the WLAN-signal of Freifunk unsecured?
One the one hand, a password is always a kind of burden, because when you don't know it, you stay out of the network. But we want to reach as many people as possible (even across language barriers), so Freifunk goes without passwords consequently. Like this, you can use the open network without any instructions, consulting or registration. Additionally, a complex encryption reduces tha tranfer performance and range and creates technical burdens.