Venture Beat’s Anthony Ha says the San Francisco free WiFi network, using Meraki access points, is quietly moving forward with its plans to blanket the entire city in free WiFi.
In fact, the company just crossed a big threshold — Meraki says more than 100,000 people have used its Free the Net service. That number is more than double the 40,000 users that Google and Sequoia backed Meraki was reporting at the beginning of the year.
Residents is some areas of the city can ask Meraki for free repeaters to spread that network even further. (See the map of Meraki coverage below.) Meraki even provides free wireless to some of the city’s affordable housing developments, and plans to expand in that area, too.
Unlike Earthlink, Meraki isn’t seeking the city government’s financial support or approval. The company runs local ads as part of its Free the Net service, but only as an experiment. Meraki says it isn’t making any money from those ads.
Sadly, it’s hard to imagine that every city can get free WiFi as a loss-leader for projects elsewhere. But Biswas says Meraki is seeing healthy growth for its pay product too, particularly in emerging markets like Latin America and Africa. As an example, he says Meraki created a wireless network for a village in Chile in just five days.
Mike used a Motorola WiMAX client for the backhaul, with three outdoor Meraki repeaters. One Meraki repeater was placed on the very top of the Credit Union stage (above). Another repeater was placed at the booth of First Tech Credit Union, a festival sponsor.
KINK.fm, one of the event sponsors, allowed Mike to put his little Meraki/WiMAX basestation on the roof of their guest trailer. For the most part, everything self-configured. Plug and play.
The Motorola CPEi 150 modem discovered the nearest WiMAX backhaul automatically, then the three Meraki repeaters synched automatically to each other. It was built in cooperation with Portland’s Personal Telco Project, a 501(c) 3 non-profit that supplies ad-free hotspot service to homes and businesses, with more than 100 active hotspots, shared by individuals and small businesses.
The CPEi 150 automatically connected to Portland’s WiMAX network (currently beta testing) and authenticated itself for easy setup — as advertised.
Mike spliced the 12 volts (powering the $199 WiMAX modem) onto the CAT-5 cable that connected and powered the $99, 200mW Outdoor Meraki. Bingo. The two devices (combined) drew a remarkably low .7 amps at 12 volts. A car battery might have run it continuously for two days.
UPDATE: The free Waterfront Blues WiFi was a big success. Over the four days of the event, 231 different users downloaded 2.781036 gigabytes, even though Mike limited eveyone to 250Kbps and there was vitually no promotion about the network.
Here’s How To Build an Open Source Wi-Fi HotSpot with DD-WRT. Groups like PersonalTelco re-flash the firmware on inexpensive access points like the $60 Linksys WRT54GL or Netgear WGR614L to provide additional features like splash pages (with or without advertising), bandwidth limiting and user isolation. While the Meraki units can’t be flashed with permanent open source software, the units do have most of the features you need built-in — plus built-in automatic mesh networking and centralized management. A pretty good deal for $99!
C/Net has one idea on how to make free event WiFi pay off – make a living by taking digital snapshots of passers-by. Provide event organizers with free wifi at no charge, in exchange for booth space. Make money by posting photos on photo sharing sites like SmugMug. SmugMug’s base prices are reasonable. You can price photos as you like and they handle all the printing, shipping and billing.
Or how about terrorizing the neighborhood with a bike-in, on-demand, movie theatre / performance space.
My converted tv news van (below) has a 28 ft. hydraulic mast, 4000 watt generator, 3 cameras and audio mixer). Good to go!
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