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Cloudflare expands Project Pangea to connect and protect (even) more community networks


4 min read
Cloudflare expands Project Pangea to connect and protect (even) more community networks

In July 2021, Cloudflare announced Project Pangea to help underserved community networks get access to the Internet for free. Today, as part of Impact Week, we’re excited to expand this program to support even more communities by relaxing the technical requirements to participate.

Previously, in order to be eligible for Project Pangea, participants would need to bring at least a /24 block of IP space for Cloudflare to advertise on their behalf (referred to as “Bring Your Own IP”). But everyone should have secure, fast, and reliable access to the Internet, without being gated by costly network resources like IPv4 space. Starting now, participants no longer need to bring a /24 in order to access Pangea services: Internet connectivity, DDoS protection, network firewalling, traffic acceleration, and more, are available for free for eligible networks.

How is Project Pangea helping community networks?

The Internet Society, or ISOC, describes community networks as “when people come together to build and maintain the necessary infrastructure for Internet connection.” Most often, community networks emerge from need, and in response to the lack or absence of available Internet connectivity.

Cloudflare’s global network, which spans more than 275 cities across the world, provides us with the unique opportunity to help community networks of all shapes and sizes. Cloudflare offers community networks secure, fast, and reliable Internet access through Magic Transit, and frees up time for community network operators by mitigating malicious traffic. This empowers operators to focus more on managing the last mile connections to network users.

By placing a community network behind Cloudflare with Magic Transit, those networks are automatically protected against Distributed Denial of Service attacks which often overwhelm network and security devices, or undersized Internet connections. Beyond mitigating DDoS attacks, Cloudflare also offers Magic Firewall through Project Pangea. Magic Firewall is a firewall as a service, and enables operators to remove physical firewalls and still enforce network level firewall rules. Implementing Magic Firewall in place of a physical firewall removes a single point of failure, and another device which needs to be upgraded during a maintenance window.

As community networks grow to support more users, the bandwidth required and the exposure to attack traffic also grows. One challenge with growing a network and providing security is that on premise firewalls need to be replaced or upgraded when they hit specific bandwidth limitations. The security appliance is often an expensive bottleneck to upgrade, preventing networks from helping more users. One unique benefit to using Cloudflare for network connectivity is that unlike an on premise network firewall, operators never need to upgrade Cloudflare. Incoming traffic is distributed across hundreds of locations, allowing Cloudflare to provide security services, and block attacks across the whole Cloudflare network.

One of several possible deployment models Pangea participants can use to get connected
One of several possible deployment models Pangea participants can use to get connected

Pangea participant highlight: Ayva Networks

Ayva Networks is a not-for-profit Wireless Internet Service Provider that provides backbone and Internet services to approximately 400 households in the rural mountain areas west of Boulder, Colorado. In 2023, they will grow their network to provide more gigabit network access. Nick Wilson from Ayva Networks explains that "reliable Internet in our community isn't a privilege, it's an essential utility, and often provides the only means of communication for many homes in our region as cellular service is generally rare."

After connecting through Magic Transit, Nick shared "speeds are noticeably better on Magic Transit, especially for those who work with cloud resources" and that "our firewalls deal with a lot less background noise" due to all the attack traffic mitigated by Cloudflare.

Colorado's environment can be pretty extreme, and present many challenges to running a Wireless Internet Service Provider. Ayva Networks responds to 100+ mph wind, massive hail, blizzards, flooding, insects, lightning, and fire. By using Magic Transit, Ayva Networks is better able “to engineer traffic flows much more granularly than we otherwise are able to with BGP alone, and has become an essential tool for us in mitigating and responding to outages."

What have we learned since launching Project Pangea?

We’ve been privileged to help a lot of great organizations like Ayva Networks connect more people to the Internet. Many community networks are passion projects, and are run by volunteers who want to make a difference in their community. Volunteers often only have limited time to contribute, and this has emphasized how simple we need to make it for organizations of any size to get up and running behind Cloudflare.

Another challenge we did not foresee is that many community networks do not have their own network IP address space. IP addresses are needed by all computers to communicate on the Internet. Until today, Magic Transit and Magic Firewall required that community networks provide their own IP addresses. We recently extended Magic Transit to support customers without their own IP address space with Magic Transit with Cloudflare IPs, and we’re excited to bring this functionality to community networks via Project Pangea.

How can my community network get involved?

Check out our landing page to learn more and apply for Project Pangea today.

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Impact WeekProject PangeaBetter Internet

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Ben Ritter|@bennetworks
Annika Garbers|@annikagarbers

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