The Collapse blew up the existing social order. Most people died, and most of the rest were uprooted as they fled violence in the cities, consequential diseases, and famine.
With few exceptions, the nation’s infrastructure was largely abandoned. No one maintained roads, rail networks, power lines, substations, power generation facilities, telephone lines, switching stations, cellphone towers, Internet nodes, transcontinental backbones, DNS servers, and on and on. These emplacements gradually fell into disrepair, or were damaged in fighting (often for control of the facility), or were sabotaged or scavenged. (Copper thieves have, in the 24 years since the plague, stripped nearly all of the powerlines outside the Fed, and much inside.)
(Again, there were exceptions. Places which largely escaped or survived the violence, for whatever reason, suffered from degradation, but their infrastructure could be salvaged. This included Jefferson, California, the Dakotas, and other polities.)
By the end of the Collapse, and the beginning of Reconciliation (in 2018), there was no national power infrastructure, no national telecommunications infrastructure, and no Internet. (Local networks did survive, in some places, as did LAN’s, in places with access to power.) Road and rail networks were degrading quickly, often due to simple weather conditions. And satellites, used for telecommunication, weather prediction, and the GPS system, fell from the sky or gradually broke down. (Space debris, power failure, or just the march of time and the second Law of Thermodynamics.)
(And that was just the Collapse. The Emergence didn’t do anyone any favors, in these areas.)
People responded by adapting to the new conditions. “Mankind Adapts.” When phone lines went down, they used radios. When the Internet collapsed, they used jerry-rigged signal amplifiers to establish links to other extant sites. They repurposed underground phone cables, that weren’t damaged or scavenged. They established makeshift cellphone towers, using mobile cell hotspots. They stuck laptops high in a tree, with a signal amplifier, and established an ad hoc WIFI network that spread for 100 miles.
All of these solutions were ingenious and amazing, no less so because they actually Goddamn worked. In limited places, for a limited time.
Remember the borders. Dip your fingers in india ink and flick it at a white piece of paper. Each black dot is a city or settlement.
WIFI nodes, or signal repeaters, or power substations can only exist at or near one of those dots. (And that’s assuming the dot has some kind of power source. This isn’t always true.) But around each one is the Outlaw. Powerlines, run through the Outlaw. Roads, run through the Outlaw. And each individual component of a wireless network is isolated from all the others, in the middle of the Outlaw.
A bezerkergang attacks. Down goes the phone switch. An Emerged creature blunders into power lines. Down goes the power grid. (And anything attached to it.) A fire breaks out in the forest. Down goes the Internet node.
Telecommunications, power, and other infrastructure is fragile, requires constant maintenance to avoid degradation, and requires multiple emplacements to operate over a wide area. This is a problem in the Outlaw.
The Internet uses multiple computer mainframes (nodes) to route communications from one computer to another. It was built to survive a nuclear war, and when one node goes down, signals are rerouted to other nodes. It is highly robust.
But what if the signals themselves are stopped? What if nodes simply cannot communicate with each other? In such a case, the Internet ceases to exist.
So, with no telecommunications network, no root DNS servers, and no reliable nodes, how do you establish and maintain a computer network across a continent or, God forbid, between continents?
The answer was the Skywave Mesh.