24 June 2014 — LocalOrg
Make Magazine recently featured a tutorial on constructing a FM pirate radio transmitter using a Raspberry Pi board. Raspberry Pis are single board computers that go for about $55 and are regularly used as the centerpiece for a wide variety of projects ranging from art installations to automation and everything in between.
The FM transmitter will broadcast stored media within a limited range to any FM radio receiver nearby. It is a versatile proof of concept that can be used as is to “cover your home, DIY drive-in movie, a high school ball game, or even a bike parade.” In the comment sections below the entry, readers could already be seen expanding the parameters of the project to add more options and increase its utility.
Pirate Radio & Decentralizing Big-Telecom
As reported before, while open source software and hardware, as well as innovative business models built around collaboration and crowd-sourcing have done much to build a paradigm independent of current centralized proprietary business models, large centralized corporations and the governments that do their bidding, still guard all the doors and carry all the keys. The Internet, the phone networks, radio waves, and satellite systems still remain firmly in the hands of big business. As long as they do, they retain the ability to not only reassert themselves in areas where gains have been made against them, but can impose preemptive measures to prevent any future progress.
Image: Project Byzantium creates a local “mesh” network – a personal Internet that circumvents NSA surveillance and big-business rules and regulations.
With the advent of hackerspaces, increasingly we see projects that hold the potential of replacing, at least on a local level, much of the centralized infrastructure we take for granted – that is until disasters or greed-driven rules and regulations upset the balance. It is with the further developing of our local infrastructure that we can leave behind perpetual activism that reacts to provocations from big-business and their control over telecom infrastructure and enjoy a permanently altered telecommunications landscape that favors our peace and prosperity.
In this way, accessible pirate radio transmitters built from Raspberry Pi boards can join projects like PirateBox
, Project Byzantium
, and other tools to create local communication networks. While PirateBox and Project Byzantium create localized Internets and Serval connects mobile phones without the need for network coverage, pirate radio stations create localized radio content that can be used to connect us to our neighbors and greater community for entertainment and useful information – and help during dire emergencies when centralized infrastructure fails.
While many appear frozen in perpetual fear of Internet “kill switches,” the growing surveillance state, and a creeping Orwellian control grid, others are building alternatives that circumvent, undermine, and will eventually replace the increasingly unappealing nature of big-telecom. Indeed “kill switches” and invasive surveillance are problems, which is precisely why communities must unite and build alternatives that eliminate dependency on compromised infrastructure in the first place.
What to Do Now…
For those interested in tackling this project, if you are interested in it but feel you do not have the technical competence to do it, find your local hackerspace
and ask for help. It is probably a project they have either done already, or would be interested in doing, and they most likely have a Raspberry Pi board to work with lying around.
While a single pirate radio transmitter will not change the tide in the information war, each small step taken moves people forward, together in much greater strides. The demonstrated ability to create cheap radio transmitters with open source hardware and broadcast media across a given local range has great implications. There is no single solution to solving the problem, and no single problem has created the paradigms we find increasingly unacceptable today. But solutions like this are another step toward decentralizing big-telecom and putting technology long the monopoly of a handful of special interests into the hands of everyone else. What we do with that power and if it can be used to help build a better tomorrow is entirely up to us.