Sonic.Net's SF ComMuniFi Plan

[qi:045] Update: Dane Jasper of Sonic.Net left a comment saying that this is their own initiative and the equipment is coming from Meraki.

We’re doing this independently, using equipment from Meraki. Meraki and Google have an ad partnership, and any revenues that flow from that will be split with our customers.

Dane says that if the program works well in SF, then it would be expanded to other Bay Area regions where the ISP currently offers the service. (Original post below the fold.)

Despite the best efforts of Earthlink (ENLK), Google (GOOG) and Mayor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco MuniFi project is still stuck in neutral and going nowhere fast. For San Francisco residents, a new option has emerged: a tag team of Sonic.net, a Santa Rosa, CA-based independent ISP and that is using gear from Meraki Networks, a wireless hardware company based in Mountain View, Calif., and is trying to promote an ad-supported MuniFi model. (Its actually more like community wifi, and you can call it ComMuniFi.)

Sonic.net today notified its customers via email that they can get a Meraki wireless mesh router at a subsidized cost, which will allow them to connect it to their DSL line. The wireless router will share up to 500 kilobits per second of the bandwidth available on the DSL line.

Network users will see a Google ad bar at the top of the browser. In the future the ad revenues generated by this ad bar will be split between those who choose to opt and place a wireless router on their connection, and will be credited against their broadband bill.

It could be a rather small credit, so don’t get your hopes too high at this stage; this is still experimental and we are still working out many of the details.

This is a good model for Google to imitate in other regions as well. Google’s had to have known all along that their San Francisco grand plan was going to run ran into political trouble. The big question is why didn’t they roll out A similar service with Earthlink, a much larger ISP with many more broadband customers, would have been a better option for all concerned. I have become a fan of this community-based WiFi plan, which doesn’t need a lot of government dollars, and instead bets on citizen’s desire to share. Independent ISPs such as Sonic.Net are more likely to embrace this model.

Meraki backed by Google and Sequoia Capital, is one of the companies which has been championing a more community approach to free wifi. It recently announced plans to expand their experimental Meraki network to all across San Francisco.

Meraki has been selling its wireless 802.11b/g access point and mesh repeater, the Meraki Mini, for $49 and claims its products are already being used by 2,000 networks in 40 countries. The company also lists an outdoor ruggedized version of its Meraki Mini for $99. Meraki’s business is being built off hardware and software based on MIT’s Roofnet project. The Roofnet Project was previously funded by MIT’s Project Oxygen and NTT DoCoMo.

Related News: Our previous Meraki coverage.

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