Now, I don't mean to sound like some kind of old crabby guy here. I'm getting to a point. Today, most people are surrounded by world of gadgets and appliances of stunning complexity and haven't a clue as to how most of it works. And I say "how it works" instead of "how they work" because these gadgets are all working together, as a system. You punch a text message into your cell phone and hit send and a few minutes later a post appears on Twitter and chances are you literally have no idea what happened in between, or how much information you exposed about yourself in the process. Frankly, I think it's a little dangerous to be so dependent on an interconnected world most people don't understand. (James Burke talked about this kind of danger in his "Connections" program over 30 years ago, a program that made a strong impression on me as a child, but the world of 30 years ago just seems quaint now.) And it's more than a little dangerous when these people are regulating this world they don't understand, lawmakers who have never used e-mail, whose mental model of the internet is "a series of tubes" and who are constantly surrounded by paid lobbyists representing agendas that often run counter to public interest.
What does all of that have to do with OpenBTS? One of the motivations for releasing a GSM stack in open source is to help curious people understand how cellular technologies work, to demystify the GSM network by reducing it to a simple form. This is happening, to some degree, through students and "makers" who have built working OpenBTS nodes as class or club projects. I think there are about a dozen such systems out there now, not counting commercial development kits, and I love to hear from these people. Congratulations to everyone who has even tried to run OpenBTS, but especially to those who succeeded. That first phone call was pretty exciting, wasn't it? And it was very satisfying to know how it happened. Granted, we're not educating lawmakers yet, if that's even a meaningful goal, but it's a start.