Updated: Gotenna Mesh concerns for Puerto Rico 2019

GoTenna concerns in Puerto Rico, USVI & Caribbean


It has now been almost two years since hurricanes Irma, Maria, and Jose and numerous mudslides hit Puerto Rico and the Caribbean leaving a path of absolute biblical destruction.  Over 93% of cellular communications; over 90% of power and home/business wifi were taken out.  Serendipitously, at the same time the hurricanes started hitting, Gotenna released the very first (and still only) consumer-ready off-the-shelf long-range mesh communication device, the Gotenna Mesh device.  Uniquely, Gotenna offers encryption making them the only viable HIPAA-approved comms device when all else fails.


Gotenna Mesh works in an ad hoc or peer to peer (p2p) manner without requiring infrastructure (no home wifi, no satphone, no cell towers needed) it just works.  Gotenna is entirely self-sufficient and offers a 3-4 mile range (under ideal circumstances up to 57 mile range) for each p2p hop- and allowing up to six hops.  They are reasonably priced at only about $50 a piece and they can intelligently and selectively backhaul across the internet, cell networks, wifi, satellites, or any available network to get to any recipient anywhere in the world, even if they don’t have a Gotenna device.

After the hurricanes, Gotenna partnered with PR Reconnects to create an indiegogo-type public fundraiser to raise about $20,000 in order to buy at least 300 Gotenna mesh units to distribute them to create a backbone across the island to enable crucial communications for first responders aiding in the relief and recovery effort in 2017.

The units were to be delivered in installments.  The money was raised fairly quickly; however, after the first shipment of 80 arrived, Javier, GoTenna, and PR Reconnects went dark – no updates, no publication of node deployments, unresponsive to questions.


Separately, in parallel, DHS (FEMA) and DOD spent about $800,000 in taxpayer funds on Gotenna Mesh units.  However, to this day, 2 years later, only about 10 of the nodes (and substantially only in San Juan) are published on (or anywhere) to allow communities, NGOs, and first responders to leverage this infrastructure.  STILL ONLY ten or so of the 300+ units funded by donations and/or taxpayer funds – ONLY ten have been deployed and their locations published on the map and NONE of the DHS or DOD units seem to have been deployed.


Map below actually shows devices installed BEFORE the fundraiser (and in several cases nodes established by other, 3rd parties – such as, e.g., “Jayson Call”).  Over the past two years, no significant changes have been observed on this or any other publicly available portal.


For months on their forum at, by email, phone, by twitter, on facebook and instagram, I’ve tried to elicit a status update in bona fide good faith- earnestly hoping to encourage Gotenna to publish the locations of the public relays but with no luck.  Instead, Gotenna, PR Reconnects, and their partners have deleted my posts, suspended my account for 999 years (until 3017), deleted my account at Gotenna-controlled and blocked my access on every social media platform available.  EVEN offered to pay me a thousand dollars rather than merely providing an update.




Straining the bounds of reason, they astonishingly have the temerity to virtue-signal prominently on their website ( that they actually helped Puerto Rico!?

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My concern is that Hurricane Season 2019 is rapidly approaching (2 weeks away) and we still don’t have ANY idea where the 300+ publicly donated Gotenna units are or if DHS / FEMA / DOD / Coast Guard have deployed even 1 to Puerto Rico or USVI.  To exacerbate issues, Gotenna decided to save a few pennies and wholly omit the GPS chip that was advertised.

As a result there’s no independent GPS functionality at all.  This means that the Gotenna unit cannot act as a headless SOS device by itself – but instead force survivors to have a working phone with a pre-installed Gotenna application.  AND there’s no beacon or advertise function of the permanently installed relays – and no restoration after power outage.  So, if PR Reconnects or Gotenna continue to delay and ultimately decide not to make this information available to the public (as they’ve done for the past two hurricane seasons), there is literally NO way for first responders, NGOS, or communities to leverage the taxpayer or the publicly donated infrastructure.  Moreover, since no one knows where they are and there’s no way to determine whether they are operating nominally – or not, there’s no way that anyone can maintain, upgrade firmware, recharge batteries, swap out defective units, batteries, or solar panels.

And to put a cherry on top of this sundae, GoTenna has now pivoted their attention to a new GoTenna Pro model which operates on WHOLLY dissimilar frequencies which makes the Pro model completely incompatible with this critical communications backbone that we built in Puerto Rico. What this means is that, for example: a grandmother in the mountains of Utuado, Lares, or Morovis (the first places to lose service and the last to have it restored) who sends out an emergency broadcast via the Gotenna Mesh network cannot be sure that the message will get out due to the lack of transparency and accountability of the donated build-out or the taxpayer buildout. Even *IF* this crucial backbone does work in relaying the message, the military and government first responders will be wholly deaf to her pleas (as they can’t even listen to the 902-927MHz frequency range of the Gotenna Mesh devices) as they are stuck in the 100 and 400MHz range of the Gotenna Pro.

gotenna pro

Ironically, this then leaves ONLY the volunteer first responders, like ARES, MARS, RACES, CERT, Red Cross,  etc., the same people that selflessly run in when things go wrong to receive requests for help and respond.  However, with Gotenna and PR-Reconnects lack of transparency and obfuscation, these are the VERY people who have *NO IDEA* where these heavily-proximity based devices are -or if they are even able to receive relayed messages.

The Fema-based CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams) program (meant to integrate these volunteers into the national incident management system) promotes interoperability of communications devices, accountability: knowing where and updating the locations of emergency resources such as the Gotenna devices; AND “prior to an incident” practicing to ensure the interoperability, to make sure they work as intended to integrate these volunteers and NGOs into the disaster recovery picture… however, NONE of these critical Incident Command System / National Incident Management System (ICS/NIMS) guidelines are being followed.

sharing info

where they at

I am very concerned that if Gotenna and PR Reconnects don’t adopt a sense of urgency, and start following accountability and transparency best-practices, many people, many Americans will die.  Things aren’t better in Puerto Rico, USVI, or the Caribbean. *TEMPORARY* solutions have been hastily thrown together.  The power and communication lines were strung together in expedited manner; families are living in tents; blue tarps cover roofs, or mere ropes tie down tin roofs.

The first thing that needs to happen is that GoTenna, PR Reconnects, and Javier J. Malave Bonet should simply publish approximate locations of these 300+ deployed emergency relays.  Secondly, Gotenna should act with all due haste to issue an updated firmware that provides power-restoration after outage, beacon and advertise functions so that this network can be tested, supplemented, and troubleshot BEFORE the next disaster. Thirdly, if possible, the software defined radio (SDR) in the Gotenna-Pro should be updated to allow for even minimal operation (such as reception alone) in the 900MHz consumer ISM frequency band to at least receive calls for help from nearby civilians and responders and Gotenna should make it more clear who can use Gotenna Pro devices.  Are FCC certified ARES / MARS / RACES / CERT volunteers legally allowed to operate within appropriate frequencies?

Further, Gotenna advertises a GotennaPlus subscription / free-trial service which allows sms or text relay whereby if the intended recipient is not found on the local Gotenna Mesh network, the message is forwarded via the internet and sms / text networks to get to a non-local recipient anywhere in the world.  Puerto Rico has had Text 911 service in all 78 municipalities for over 5 years.  Yet, Gotenna stubbornly refuses to allow any emergency messages to be sent to text-based 911 services.

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2019 Galaxy Watch LTE VS. 2014 Samsung Gear S LTE


So, in five years, what’s the improvement in the real world performance?  What’s the sum of five years of technological advancements in every field from Samsung?

Just a brief rundown of why I am still in love with the Samsung Gear S from 2014:  Firstly, it has an actual physical sim card slot so you could arrive in Puerto Rico, toss in a Claro card and be up and running in seconds.  Secondly, the curved amoled screen is beautiful and big enough to have a full swype / swiftkey qwerty keyboard and be able to type very easily rather than returning to the T9 tap tap tap keyboard of the Galaxy Watch. Also, the Gear S can install Opera Mini browser for full screen web viewing. With 4G, 3G, 2.5G, Wifi, bluetooth… you can get enough speed to communicate with email, facebook, twitter, text messages, and interface with a raspberry Pi Gotenna gateway or a Sonnet Labs mesh device.  The Gear S can be made to run Android Wear, Samsung Tizen, fullblown Android 5.0 or Cyanogen Mod (CM) 12.1… It is a very versatile device and rugged enough to survive post-Maria Puerto Rico. Water-resistant and dust-resistant means it can stay on in the shower and survive the playa.


The Galaxy Watch is pretty solid little guy. My understanding is that it is waterproof, dustproof, boasts a 4 day battery life, has 4G, 3G, Wifi, bluetooth, and NFC. But, it’s a TINY little screen. No on-screen keyboard. No physical sim card. Instead, it’s locked down with an eSim internally. There doesn’t seem to be Opera mini web-browser in the samsung app store.  But, it is more rugged, updated processor, SOC, baseband, memory, screen, and with a louder speaker.

Down to the tests:

I setup the Gear S to call the Galaxy Watch using 4G LTE only, everything else off.  After 30 minutes, the 2019 Galaxy Watch (46mm) gave up the ghost and overheated. The Gear S from 2014 was still fully functional.  After a half-hour phonecall, both devices were at 75% battery.  Identical battery draw?


A thirty minute phonecall in the shade, during winter, at 66 degrees ambient, with screen and every other radio off, no background apps, was enough to get the brand NEW from the box, 2019, Galaxy Watch to overheat, automatically shut down the radios and enter airplane and low power mode?


I reestablished the call several times, each time, the Galaxy Watch overheated (both in exactly the same environment).


At one point, during winter, with the air conditioning on full, I was able to get the Galaxy Watch to hold the call for a little over an hour in the shade before it overheated.  Ultimately, the Gear S was able to do, in sum, 1 hour and 47 minutes of telephone calls to the Galaxy Watch’s 1 hour 44 minutes before the Galaxy Watch 2019 46mm (big battery) shut down.  The Gear S still had about 2% battery.  So, if phone calls and 4G data is important to you, the Gear S is the winner. This surprises me a lot. Has Samsung done nothing in five years?


In contrast, where the Galaxy Watch shine, powering up wifi, and watching Youtube, the Gear S was dead in about an hour, whereas the Galaxy Watch was still going.  I fell asleep waiting for her to die. But, I would extrapolate the Galaxy Watch as being able to survive for about 2 hours streaming youtube over wifi.  If circular display, youtube watching, and scuba diving are in your future, the Galaxy Watch is a great device.


For me, in humanitarian missions after a hurricane, being able to rapidly deploy, hit the ground with BOTH a CDMA (Sprint / Verizon) device and a GSM (ATT / Tmobile) device to provide meta signal diversity and double my likelihood of a usable comms signal is important.  The Galaxy Watch will be a pain activating the sim (you literally NEED a second, working device, downloading an app, and a data signal to establish comms). While the Gear S has a beautiful, little nano sim slot (all while maintaining water-resistance).


In stark contrast to the Galaxy Watch, the Gear S can just have any sim plugged in and be off and running.  Being able to access advanced messaging with receipt confirmation for group comms like facebook messenger on the Gear S is very helpful… and without a native facebook / twitter / signal / whatsapp / gotenna app, a web browser like Opera Mini is ESSENTIAL. Also, the flexibility of being able to pull the sim card from the watch and plug it into a phone interchangeably is very helpful.  If you have the device running full android or CM, you should be able to get the Signal, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and /orGotenna Apps to allow direct backup device mesh communications if all the towers are down.


I WISH Samsung would release an updated unlocked Gear S with BIG rectangular curved amoled screen with a full on-screen keyboard (swype/swiftkey) and a physical external SIM card slot bringing to bear all of their advancements in processor, baseband, battery, and waterproofing and embodying them in a nice new watch for geeks.  But until then, the most powerful smartwatch still is the 2014 Samsung Gear S.

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Join Your Local ARES, RACES, or MARS! We need your help before hurricane season.

Please Join your local Ares, Races, or Mars groups to help and seek help when SHTF


As we have seen time and again recently, iphones, celltowers, landlines, do not always just magically work. Especially as we go into 5G, there will be mass disruptions of access to emergency services and first responders. Satellite phones and data do not work during the worst of the storm. Hell, even first responders may have no means to communicate. When SHTF, as we saw in Puerto Rico, Houston, Panama City, Mexico Beach, the ONLY operable backup communications system is long / medium range ham radio.  If your org does not have a backup comms plan, as seen in Puerto Rico, especially, you cannot coordinate multiple independent volunteer VOAD, NVOADS, NGOs, and government agencies at Fed, State, Local, and tribal levels, let alone across dissimilar military branch comms structures. There’s no other unifed comms device that lets community actually interact with national guard, coast guard life flights, civilian air patrol, hospitals, police, air force medevac and logistics, Navy floating hospitals, shelters, churches, EOCs, CERT, Brace, Red Cross, or local mayors, governors, fema, dhs, cbp, and others in an actual national emergency.  There’s nothing. They are all on dissimilar frequencies with dissimilar encryption and security protocols. This is by design. BUT it imperils us when everything else fails.  There must be some way to get ALL of these stakeholders to communicate easily, effectively, in an auditable ICS/NIMS compliant manner.

So what’s the best we got? At present, Amateur Radio Emergency Services volunteer VOADs … but these are old souls with dwindling numbers. We need new blood. We had previously only really used FCC certified ham radio operators, but we need to expand. We need to include, more generally, ANYONE from the community to help with and prepare for emergency comms. We could really use your help. Please consider joining Ares, Races, (or Mars if you are military). Towns and counties across America need your help – especially during winter blizzards and preparing for next hurricane season.

Even if you don’t have your FCC technician license, we can use you.  Help your community? If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or email below.  In the meantime, if you don’t have your ham license, you can still use smaller, tactical comms units like FRS/GMRS/MURS/GoTenna/MotoT800 / Sonnet Mesh, even CB to help ARES coordinate disaster response and recovery and gateway / digipeter between ham and unlicensed bands /devices. Some of these, like Gotenna even have civtak, ATAK team assault/awareness kit, blue team tracking, or APRS-like functionality, digipeter, TNC, Kiss, @mobilinkd with HIPAA-level encryption, 1 to 1, groups, or public broadcast and reception receipt.  Winlink still has its place, but for short comms hospital & shelter to EOC, Gotenna / talkabout moto t800 / sonnet mesh / beartooth / devices are not bad.


Published by jollymonsails

Intellectual Property Attorney, Geek, Pro Bono Publico voluntario View all posts by jollymonsails



#imeshyou #gotennaMesh #Gotenna #MeshNetwork #Mesh #MeshNetwork

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On the Freedoms and Responsibilities Of Civic Speech

What is spam? Clearly someone who repeatedly sends solicitous messages for their own financial benefit is a spammer.  But, is a user who seeks to shed light on fraud in a public forum, addressed to public officials, towards the public welfare, and regarding public infrastructure / disaster readiness a spammer?

The First Amendment lays out several sacrosanct, inalienable relevant positive rights enjoyed by all Americans:

  • The right to unabridged freedom of speech;
  • The right to freedom of the press;
  • The right to petition government for the redress of grievances; and
  • The right to peaceable assembly.

There are limitations though. Can one utter fighting words that might imminently breach the peace or shout “fire” in a crowded theater? No.  Can one lie, falsely advertise, or commit fraud for their own commercial benefit? No.

First Amendment jurisprudence provides speech which is primarily commercial much less protection than other speech.  My speech is honest, truthful, regarding public concerns, motivated by love and my oath to provide for the public welfare and common defense, and addressed to public entities funded by taxpayer funds.

Some have said that I’ve been spamming my concerns about Gotenna and Twilio.  I’m not invested in either company or their competitors. My concern and sole motivation is to further the collective public interest in a strong communications infrastructure so that the next time a hurricane or disaster strikes, the people of Puerto Rico, my mother, perhaps your mother, and other Americans will have backup communications options firmly in place to reach out and ask for help.  I have no financial interest in this whatsoever.

So far, Gotenna and Twilio have dismissed my concerns, ignored my questions, labelled me a troll, blocked all of my accounts, deleted accounts on their forum and banned them for 1000 years; deleted threads and posts asking earnest questions; gotten my Twitter  and Facebook accounts suspended; threatened lawsuits; and offered me a $1000 to be quiet.

Is this the behavior of a company you would trust with your communications and maintaining your privacy?

I have only two asks:

(1) Will Gotenna and/or Twilio put best-efforts to enabling 911  / 112 / 999 access via their sms relay or Emergency SOS features?  ALL 78 municipalities of Puerto Rico are ready, willing, and able to receive text 911 messages.  FCC has required this since 2014- but still no movement on the part of Gotenna / Twilio.

(2) Will Gotenna and/or PR Reconnects live up to the promises of their fundraiser (fully funded in 2017) to provide an emergency backup communications network of “300” gotenna mesh comms devices to Puerto Rico? Will Gotenna provide the necessary connection to hospitals as called for before next hurricane season?

If either of these are important to you, please kindly ask @gotenna @pr_reconnects @javierMBGJ (Javier Malave) or @twilio (Jeff Lawson) for input on whichever platform you prefer.

If you disagree with me or have suggestions on how to better achieve this, please consider letting me know why/how below or sharing your thoughts or advice here or via email privately at

The proof is in the pudding.  This clearly is not the 300 gotenna emergency backup communications units that the fundraiser called for and they are not satellite sms backhauled to the local hospitals or policia.  Ignoring 911 “Emergency SOS” messages when they could be quite readily delivered to any of the thousands of e911 ng911 text911 or text-to-911 PSAP centers is playing Russian roulette with innocent peoples’ lives with a blindfold on.

Quit the #BirdBoxChallenge ing Gotenna, Twilio, open your eyes. By refusing to allow 911, and discarding emergency SOS messages, you are creating an inherently dangerous situation.

Isn’t it our duty to shed light and to speak truth?

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Why Grandma Can’t Reach 911 if she gets run over by a reindeer on Christmas Eve: A story of ducks and chickenshits.

On The Nature Of Ducks (and Title II “information service” providers):

What is a common carrier?

What does the First Amendment have to do with common carriers?

What is estoppel (e.g., collateral estoppel, equitable estoppel… etc.)?

If someone walks, talks, and acts like a duck, and argues in front of the FCC and courts that they are a duck, aren’t they a duck?

Should a company seeking profit be able to argue that they are a duck in court when it benefits them but then, with the same mouth, argue vociferously that they aren’t a duck when it doesn’t suit them for legal purposes?

Believe someone when they show you who they are.

What do Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Gotenna, Twilio, and others all have in common? They all want to make money.  Accordingly, they provide services that enrich them and incidentally, we are all provided with a service.  Amazon Alexa is a great example.  From our perspective, we pay some amount ($19 – $149) and get a gadget that does things for us.  But what’s the real purpose behind Amazon Alexa from Amazon’s perspective? Where do they really make their money?

Similarly, Gotenna makes a product (e.g., Gotenna Mesh) ostensibly to connect people on the fringes of conventional communications coverage (hiking, sailing, ….) for emergency communications, and the like.

As a responsible care-taker of parents, at some point, if we are good children, then we’ll all need to face the reality that sometimes our elderly may need to reach out for help and we won’t be there to help them.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get our seniors an Amazon Alexa, a Google Home, a Gotenna device and even if the celltowers fall, even if our parent falls and can’t reach the phone, they still have a fighting chance to get help?

The WSJ lays out an instance where an elderly lady fell and couldn’t get up, couldn’t reach her phone and tried to use Alexa to call 911 for help.  In my experience, my mother had her cable, power, telephone, and internet lines cut by a freak accident days before a hurricane hit her taking out her cell phone tower.  In another experience, a girl at Burning Man, out in the middle of the desert (with no cell signal) suffered third degree burns and couldn’t get help.

What’s the common thread?

911 access. There are many instances where we may need to ask for help… and sometimes we can’t simply pickup the phone to dial 911.  Home invasions, active shooters, domestic violence, infrastructural failures, deaf / HOH / elderly / children … to name a few.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a simple way to send a message to our first-responders or others in the community better situated to help without needing to use our voice, without relying on only one telecommunications service? Don’t we want a 911 service that is robust, intelligent, flexible? Don’t we want to provide backup channels to get the message out?  Isn’t, or shouldn’t, our goal be to promote the strongest, most capable, most accessible 911 service for our weakest members of society?

The FCC believes this to be true.


So why am I blabbering about Gotenna?

Gotenna is the only reliable, accessible, inexpensive backup communications system that presently exists for 2019.  What about ham radio? It’s definitely good, but it requires an FCC license, study, an exam, and a fee.  Is it idiot proof? Would you feel safe leaving your Grandmother with a ham radio and being sure she’ll find the right channel and effectively get a message out?  Gotenna, on the other hand, serves as its own cell tower and local repeater. All in a package the size of a lighter and only $50 on ebay.  Gotenna Mesh uniquely broadcasts a loved one’s cry for help even when every other avenue of communications is down.  Gotenna sends out the message and if any other Gotenna within miles does have any form of service, it can relay the message out to the telephone network.  Which is great! Except that, for some reason, it will not forward the message to 911.  Any other number in the world can be reached, but for some reason, Gotenna will not allow 911 emergency messages.  Digging deeper, Gotenna relies on a cloud-based IP to telephone service provider, Twilio, and Twilio squarely forbids any emergency messages. Why is this?

So what other options are there? Well, Amazon Alexa and Google Home would be great! All she needs to say is “Alexa, call 911.” Unless well-meaning legislation or administrative rules created a disincentive from Amazon or Google providing 911 access (as is presently the case).

Tens of thousands of 911 PSAP call centers covering our biggest cities are ready, willing, and able to accept text 911 messages.  Sure, there’s more work to do to expand coverage out to our poorest counties and states… but text-to-911 is a mature service providing a last line of defense to tens of millions of Americans.

So, why won’t Amazon, Google, Twilio, Gotenna put the last brick in place to enable our loved ones to reach out for help?

Could it be that Amazon, Google, Twilio, Gotenna, and others truly don’t care about Americans? About saving lives? About providing an avenue for help?

Have their lawyers determined that it simply isn’t worth the risk? and having to contribute minuscule fees to 911 centers?

While Twilio does provide sms delivery services for Gotenna, their primary and most lucrative business is automating commercial text delivery (robotexts) marketing or advertising products or political candidates.  To these ends they’ve argued time and again in front of the FCC that text messages are an inalienable First Amendment Free Speech right.  They’ve argued that telecommunications services and providers are mere common carriers – obliged to dutifully deliver whatever they’ve been entrusted with (parcels, letters, telephone calls, and text messages).  Any attempts to interfere with Twilio’s text messages (such as  Verizon saving Grandma from a million annoying “spam” robotexts) would violate their First Amendment rights to have the message dutifully delivered without interference.  Thus, Twilio feels that they are, by extension, common carriers as well, a dutiful mailman, that neither deliberates or is unfaithful, but merely delivers the messages come rain, snow, sleet, or hail.  Twilio makes no judgment calls on hate speech, Nazi propaganda, child porn, fraudulent scam texts, they just deliver the message… UNLESS that message is a cry for help, a desperate message sent to 911. And in that case, Twilio, Gotenna, Amazon, Google, and others, argue that hey, we aren’t a telecommunications provider, we aren’t a common carrier, we are something new, tertium quid and the rules shouldn’t apply to us and we shouldn’t have to chip in towards community 911 access fees.

So if Twilio walks, talks, and acts like a duck (and argues in front of the FCC that they are a duck in Court)… shouldn’t we treat them like a duck? Hopefully, Twilio, Google, Amazon, and Gotenna will start doing the right thing and providing 911 access.  How can we help them with suitable rule-making / tweaking / cutting red tape / deregulating to avoid creating a perverse dis-incentive to new “information service” providers from offering basic community emergency access? Aren’t they estopped from arguing that they aren’t telecommunications providers?