For just $10,000, towns can offer free wireless over one square mile to its residents and businesses. Meraki, the company who’s bringing free Wi-Fi to San Francisco, is offering a package deal to municipalities, neighborhoods and business districts around the world to Wi-Fi one square mile for just ten grand. And the company is offering a 60-day money-back guarantee, to boot.
Called the Main Street WiFi Starter Pack, this wireless mesh networking solution can jumpstart businesses and create new jobs, an attractive feature in these times of economic uncertainty, said Paul Loeffler, spokesperson for Meraki.
One shining example of Meraki’s success happened in Prestonsburg, Ky., a town of 3,800 located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Within the first 45 days of free municipal-sponsored Wi-Fi network, 22 new businesses sprouted up, creating 48 new jobs, according to Loeffler. And a non-technical city administrator was able to handle the deployment, proving it doesn’t take a tech whiz to introduce a comprehensive Wi-Fi system to a city.
Using plug-and-play technology, Meraki’s hardware devices and software is supposed to make it faster and easier for towns to deploy than other broadband wireless solutions. In order to make it work, residents and businesses volunteer to host single wireless devices that act as gateways, repeaters and access points. The gadgets communicate with each other over the Internet to form a network. In no time, a spider web-like system is formed that gives optimal coverage over a finite swath of land.
Meraki has ambitious plans to Wi-Fi all of San Francisco by the end of 2008. In the last year and a half, over 165,000 Bay Area residents have logged into the free Wi-Fi network. The company has also handled broadband services in from the tip of Alaska to a fishing village in Chile, as well as typical American small towns like Ypsilanti, Mich. and Nashua, N.H.
Founded by Sanjit Biswas, the company began in 2006 as a doctorate research project at M.I.T. to figure out how to bring affordable Internet access to people around the world. Now, Meraki has networks in over a thousand locations in 120 countries, as well as financial backing from Google and Sequoia Capital.
This offer doesn’t last forever, as they say on infomercials. Towns should act fast, if they want to get on board the muni Wi-fi train. The promotion expires on December 1, 2008.