Tired of waiting for the San Francisco Wi-Fi network proposed by Earthlink and Google? San Francisco residents in some select neighborhoods will have another option, courtesy of Meraki, the Mountain View, Calif.-based start-up that recently raised money from Sequoia Capital and Google.
Meraki will build a one-square-mile free Wi-Fi network that will span a few select San Francisco neighborhoods. The network will be built with Meraki wireless mesh gear and will cost around $50,000. The company will also pay for DSL connections to power the network. Check out the planned coverage area.
Meraki’s CEO and founder Sanjit Biswas calls the plan an experiment and a showcase of what the company’s low cost Wi-Fi equipment can do. It’s also a savvy marketing play and if the network is successful it’ll show that community-backed wide-area Wi-Fi using the right equipment doesn’t need to be a bureaucratic hassle.
The network itself has nothing to do with the current Earthlink/Google Wi-Fi deal, and on the pace of that negotiation, Biswas says “we’re frustrated . . .everyone has been frustrated.”
Remember Google is also a Meraki investor, but Biswas says Google is interested in getting behind broadband access in whatever form.
Unlike some larger Wi-Fi deployments that have to lease city spaces to put up hardware, Meraki’s network entails signing up volunteers who will place Meraki repeaters in windows and some who can host an Internet connection.
The company says because Wi-Fi sharing isn’t always kosher with service providers the company will be using sharing-friendly ISP Speakeasy for its DSL lines. Though, the signup page also asks if volunteers have an Internet connection they want to share, so it sounds like the network could possibly include already in-use connections.
On this Biswas says: “We’ll find out what they have, since this is likely to be a sensitive issue. That question is really intended to gauge what fraction of people are interested in sharing within a community. I think we’ll be able to setup enough Meraki-provided DSLs in any case, but this helps us understand what consumers are thinking.”
If a free Wi-Fi network with a certain amount of effort and tech interest involved will be successful anywhere, it’ll likely happen in that part of San Francisco. If you’re interested go sign up on Meraki’s page.