Two fun pieces on free Wi-Fi.
First, a nicely written commentary on Wired suggests that you should unlock your wireless router! It’s not as crazy as it sounds.
Second, a well funded startup called Meraki claims it will create a free wireless network across San Francisco. A bit of digging reveals that Meraki manufactures inexpensive mesh networking devices. They usually charge for the devices, about 50 bucks each.
This time they’re giving them away for free in San Francisco if you live in an area where they need additional mesh coverage. All you have to do it plug it in or put it on your roof (it evidently works with solar power).
But here’s what I don’t understand:
- Where is the backbone connection to the Internet? They’re building up a mesh network at no cost to the users, but who is willing to share their DSL or Cable Internet connection for free? Not nearly as many as are wiling to plug in a little box. But, maybe enough to get basic Internet coverage.
- How will they make money? My guess: the basic Meraki service will be free. It is served by the backbone of volunteers that let people suckle on their DSL or Cable ISPs. But, Meraki will offer a higher-tier service with guaranteed faster throughput and greater reliability serviced directly by connections to a backbone that Meraki pays for. Just a guess.
Here’s the answer to question 2. It looks like Meraki will monetize this free Internet access with a toolbar:
Hmm, I wonder how people will like that. I guess they’ll deal if it’s free.