A while back I learned about an interesting company that was working to blanket San Francisco with free wifi access. Meraki and their Free the Net San Francisco campaign are using an interesting method, similar to open source, to provide free wifi to San Francisco. Anyone can sign up to get a free wifi providing station that can be plugged and placed near a widow or on a balcony and you’re instantly extending the base wifi signals that Meraki offers. So, rather than trying to build the complicated infrastructure needed with multiple stations providing the wifi signal, and coordinate leases for places to put these stations…they just give them away!
The stations appear to draw a small amount of power, so they shouldn’t cost poeple a lot of money to leave on all the time. And, like any ‘free’ service, there is supposed to be small adds that get displayed. I say supposed to be becuase I haven’t actually been in a part of San Francisco where yet where I could fine their network, but the Wall Street Journal article about them indicated the advertising.
Side Box: Speaking of advertising, looks like effects of News Corps acquistion of WSJ publisher Dow Jones is now evident. As I went to the WSJ while writing this article, I was litterally bombarded with advertising like I had never seen before on their site. Sad to say, that’s not the WSJ online anymore…and I’ll be sticking to the print version where at least the ads stay within their boundaries on the page…
Not surprising, Meraki is backed by Google. This could be Google’s way of helping to provide the ubiquitous free network access that keeps coming up from them every so often.