META MESH empowers people to build Community Wireless Networks
What is a Community Wireless Network?
People who have a home Internet connection lease their ability to communicate with others to centralized ISPs like Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner. Other people do not have Internet access at all because for them it is a luxury or ISPs do not service their neighborhoods. Two sides of a coin, two problems.
What if we could solve both at the same time? What if residents came together and built their own infrastructure, funded not by a corporation or even the local government but by the users themselves? Meta Mesh thinks we can by using Community Wireless Networks.
Much like an office’s network, resources can be available even without Internet access. You don’t need Internet access to use your network printer, right? So why should you need Internet access to send a file to your friend three blocks away? You can both put an inexpensive wireless router and antenna on your roofs, walls, chimneys, or even in your windows, configure them the right way, and you without paying an ISP a dime you have your own wireless network.
What if, after building that wireless network you opened it up so that anyone could use it for Internet access? After all, you don’t get a refund for bandwidth you don’t use, so you might as well give it away– just like your local coffeeshop does. And by setting up these “nodes” and giving away that bandwidth, other people benefit who might not have Internet connections at home.
What if you organized your community to raise funds to build a network of these wireless devices, a Community Wireless Network, that did all this, used inexpensive routers, had no monthly fees, and created a decentralized, resilient network that could be used for work or for fun when things were good and could be used to get Internet access or to communicate locally when a a bad storm came through and knocked out Internet access? That’s a Community Wireless Network. And that is what Meta Mesh wants to help you build.
Meta Mesh’s Goals
First, to make Community Wireless Networks so simple that almost any non-technical person create them. This means writing documentation, streamlining solutions, and educating people so that they can build their own networks without the need for an IT company. ISPs, while essential for national and international communication, end up forcing regular people to lease their ability to communicate with each other from a large corporation. If we can empower communities to build their own networks and add services on those networks, we can give a digital voice to those who are not serviced by ISPs due to cost, lack of ISP infrastructure, or for any other reason preventing easy, ubiquitous Internet access.
Second, to build a proof-of-concept network in our hometown of Pittsburgh called PittMesh. PittMesh serves as an example of how to build a mesh network in a specific geographic area that has websites and services built on top of the network. PittMesh is a standalone wireless network that exists parallel to the Internet and will remain up should Internet access go down. Meta Mesh does not own or manage PittMesh; users and node hosts own and manage PittMesh. And while Meta Mesh offers services on the network, it has no mandatory centralized control over it. This is what separates a Community Wireless Network from any other centralized WiFi network- even if it is public and in a neighborhood.
PittMesh is a network of routers connected wirelessly. Meta Mesh uses only consumer-grade, off-the-shelf WiFi hardware easily available at electronics stores or online. When you use the PittMesh Network, you not only gain access to all the “mesh-only” resources that the network affords, but you expand the network, allowing others to connect and expand the network even further. To see the location of live nodes in your area, check out www.PittMesh.net.