Blog Post

Meraki’s FreeNet is Live …. almost

Who knows when San Francisco will get its city-wide Wi-Fi network, courtesy of Google and EarthLink. But I did get a chance to hop onto startup Meraki’s San Francisco network last weekend, that the company has dubbed Free the Net. The ad-hoc Wi-Fi network is already live in a few places in the city, using shared broadband connections and Meraki’s Wi-Fi repeaters that users place in their windows or on balconies.


I checked out the network at the corner of Steiner and Page where there are two gateway nodes. The network coverage is pretty limited right now, with 61 users that have repeaters and 259 users that have signed up for repeaters, but the company plans to hand out 1,000 total.

Check out the speed test I did while on the network at Page and Steiner — a pretty strong signal. But also intersting is notice the broadband provider — SBC. Hmm, I had thought the startup was going to try to use sharing-friendly Speakeasy for many of its connections.

Update: A Meraki spokesperson just emailed us to say that the network rolled out so far has been done by volunteers who wanted to share their own connections. In the next couple of weeks the company says it will be replacing these connections with Speakeasy lines that Meraki is purchasing.


6 Responses to “Meraki’s FreeNet is Live …. almost”

  1. March 24, 2008. I live in the Tenderloin, in the busiest part of Crack Town. I’m on the 12th floor with no tall buildings within a few blocks. I have an outdoor repeater. It sometimes gets a signal, but not strong enough to load a simple page, like It won’t load anything. Macstumbler says that the signal varies between 65-70. Even so, the LED meter on the repeater typically is up to 3 out of 4 lights. This supposed to indicate a pretty strong signal. My Airport does not register Free the Net, but picks up many other signals in the hood. Using MB Pro, 2.4Ghz, tried many browsers, same with all, nothing. I have a Hawking USB Wireless Dish. With the dish I receive Free the Net, with a signal strength that ranges between 35-60. Sometimes it is slower than the old 14.4 modem, and sometimes it’s OK, like DSL on a very bad day. Radio streams but sometimes drops constantly. I think it’s interesting that the Meraki repeater is inferior to the Hawking Dish. I can’t fault Airport, as I live in a concrete and steel building and my computer is not near a window, even when it is it does not receive FTN. But I can’t get radio stations on a good radio without lots of interference. I do however receive perfectly clear digital TV with a $2. set of rabbit ears, of course I have a digital TV tuner.

  2. Roger Campos

    The signal has been strong in the Lower Haight where I have a repeater. However, I have not been able to get on the net for a while. According to Meraki FAQ’s there may be a problem with bandwidth.

  3. Robert, I would give it time. It looks like they are getting the gateway nodes up first, then plan to fill in the rest of the area with repeaters. There’s still a lot of space to cover and it makes sense to get the sources of bandwidth installed first and spread out as evenly as possible.

    I’m working on a very similar project (on a larger scale) in the Dallas, TX area –

  4. Robert Berger

    Last time I looked at the Meraki SF Network map, the vast majority of the nodes had direct connections to some form of wired Internet connection. A very small percentage of the n odes were “meshed” (i.e. wirelessly connected to thru another meraki node). Of that small percentage most had only one hop before they got to the wire and a very small percentage had two hops.

    This is not a mesh network.