Meta Mesh Wireless Communities is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Wireless Internet Service Provider. Since 2015, we’ve worked to bridge the Digital Divide in the Greater Pittsburgh area by helping those who are unable to get Internet access due to monetary or geographical barriers. To do this, we raise funds and work with community groups, universities, and school districts to cover the cost of our services.
Our goal is to get broadband Internet to Pittsburghers who need it, without burdening them with a monthly bill.
This approach has never been done before on a large scale in the United States!
To bridge the Digital Divide in a meaningful and permanent way by building Community Wireless Networks in Pittsburgh and around the world.
In our own city of Pittsburgh, nearly 23% of people do not have Internet access. To live and work in today’s digital society, it is essential to have access to the Internet. Reliable Internet access is no longer a luxury – it is a necessity, and a right.
To bridge the Digital Divide we need to achieve three main goals:
- Build the United States’ first and largest need-based Community Wireless Internet Service Provider. By building an exemplary network here in Pittsburgh, we can show others around the United States (and the world) that they can build and own their Internet distribution networks without paying exorbitant fees. By focusing on neighborhoods that need connectivity the most we separate ourselves from for-profit alternatives. Check out a side-by-side comparison of our mesh/WISP model next to incumbent ISPs’ approach.
- Build the United States’ best community-based WiFi network. What good is a network if it doesn’t work well or benefit the local community? We strive to build a fast, reliable, and expansive network to get Internet access to as many people as possible. In addition to Internet access, a local “intranet” can host websites and services that enable communication even if the greater Internet goes down. The Meta Mesh Network will eventually support services such as community message boards, local chat programs, ebook libraries, and emergency notification systems. Meta Mesh is developing open-source resources to improve these community-specific benefits.
- Be an example and a resource to others. This means sharing our knowledge and engaging those who need to build their own WiFi networks. Meta Mesh is dedicated to creating high-quality educational and administrative resources that can be used freely by anyone, anywhere in order to build networks like ours. You can also view some of our classes on our YouTube channel.
For more on Meta Mesh Wireless Communities, check out our 2020 Organizational Fact-sheet.
A Pittsburgh where everyone has fast, reliable, and private access to the Internet.
- Inclusion – We support people in underserved communities by addressing the critical need for affordable Internet access. We also created a glossary of terms and FAQ section to translate “tech talk” into concepts that everyone can understand.
- Transparency – We ensure the public can view our progress and see metrics of our success on our live map.
- Stewardship – We organize existing neighborhood resources to maintain and monitor good connectivity for the public benefit.
- Equity – We embody equal opportunity through a not-for-profit model that requires low up-front investment from communities and low or no monthly fees for individual households. The income from these costs goes directly back into the operations of our organization to maintain and expand the network.
- Sustainability – We develop and install a complete Internet connectivity solution for our neighbors’ needs. We gather grant funds for the initial build-out, and then we assist neighborhoods in creating sustainable community-oriented methods for covering any maintenance costs that arise after installation.
- Empowerment – We share our knowledge by creating high-quality educational and administrative resources that can be used freely by anyone to build their own WiFi network.
Sam Garfinkel – Interim Executive Director
Sam is a Pittsburgh-native who grew up in Fox Chapel. She attended DePaul University in Chicago for undergrad, majoring in English and minoring in Studio Art. After her stint in the Windy City, she moved back to The Burgh and worked for Contemporary Craft, a local nonprofit museum, as well as for the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute as a Grants Administrator. She then went back to school and completed an MA in Rhetoric from Carnegie Mellon University. Sam is very happy to be back in the nonprofit community as a team member of Meta Mesh! Sam lives in Highland Park with her partner and their baby (who is a cat named Baby). In her spare time, Sam is a printmaker and an amateur non-fiction writer.
Rania Abdulnour – Organizational Coordinator
Rania is our team’s Organizational Coordinator. Part of the focus in this role is to complete organizational and management tasks that support the efforts of variety of projects, campaigns or events. With focus on establishing and maintaining a set of sound procedures, standards and tools which are consistent with MMWC policy and practice.
Evan McCann – Project Manager
Evan McCann is a network engineer and writer. He grew up in Lancaster, PA, attended Pennsylvania of College Technology, and is still trying to master Pittsburghese. He previously worked as a network technician for the David L. Lawrence convention center, and as a network engineer. Since joining Meta Mesh he’s been helping to plan the Cathedral of Learning site, as well as assisting with network maintenance and upgrades.
Jacob Driggs – Network and Systems Designer
Jacob, a life-long tinkerer, graduated from Fox Chapel Area High School where he first honed his interest in server administration, and network design. He then attended Penn State University where he focused his attention on the Industrial Organizational work of Psychology. After graduating and spending some time in the real world, he started his own business marrying his skills in the IT world with his I/O psychology experience, acting as an IT Consultant for small businesses and non-profits. He became interested in the potential of wireless networking technology and built some long distance Point-to-Multipoint systems before being introduced to Meta Mesh. He’s excited to continue doing impactful work with like-minded folks!
Justin Goetz – System Administrator
Justin Goetz grew up in the neighborhood of Brookline in Pittsburgh. Since a kid he’s enjoyed all things tech. His current skill set focuses on Linux System Administration and Network Administration, with 4 years of real-world hands on experience. Justin maintains all Meta Mesh server infrastructure as well as assists in keeping a 100+ node network functioning.
Our Board of Directors
Colin Dean – President
Colin has run businesses and non-profits since he was 14. He has been involved with Meta Mesh since its humble beginnings as an interest group meeting at Hofbraühaus. He became its CIO during its years as a for-profit company. He is deeply involved with the software professional community in Pittsburgh, Code & Supply, and has hosted nearly a dozen software conferences in Pittsburgh. He is also on the board of the non-profit Code & Supply Scholarship Fund. He hails from the northern parts of the Greater Pittsburgh area, where he earned Bachelors and Masters degrees in Computer Science and Education from Westminster College and Robert Morris University, respectively. He resides in Wilkinsburg.
Ashley Corts – Vice President
A resident of the Allentown neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Ashley is also the co-owner of Black Forge Coffee House on Arlington Avenue. She is a dedicated fixture in the Allentown business community and is dedicated to improving her hilltop neighborhood. The Blackforge Coffee House is one of the many locations where guests can jump on the Pittmesh wireless network and is home to both indoor and outdoor wireless routers.
Knowledge Build Hudson – Board Member
As a full time entrepreneur, Knowledge Build A. Hudson utilizes on the ground and social media strategies to reach, engage, and connect people to opportunities. Knowledge has a strong background in planning, coordinating, and facilitating campaigns. He also has a comprehensive experience in recruitment and managing projects. In his free time he enjoys traveling, learning, and teaching. Knowledge Build-Hudson graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies focusing on child development and comparative cultures.
Sascha Meinrath – Board Member
Sascha is an Internet freedom activist who holds the Palmer Chair in Telecommunications at Penn State University. He is the founder of X-Lab, a future-focused technology policy and innovation think tank, and promotes the “Internet in a Suitcase” effort to create ad hoc mesh wireless technologies. Meinrath founded the Open Technology Institute in 2008 and directed the Institute while also serving as Vice President of the New America Foundation. He is also the co-founder and executive director of the CUWiN Foundation, a non-profit launched in 2000 that aims to develop “decentralized, community-owned networks that foster democratic cultures and local content,” and in 2007 founded the Open Source Wireless Coalition, “a global partnership of open source wireless integrators, researchers, implementors and companies dedicated to the development of open source, interoperable, low-cost wireless network technologies.”
In May of 2020, Meta Mesh partnered with Carnegie Mellon University’s Sustaining Equitable Education Network (SEEN). SEEN is “focused on first helping high-need K-12 schools make a successful transition to remote learning through emergency relief, and then continuing partnerships with those schools and communities to invest in equitable new educational systems post-COVID-19”.
Through this partnership, Meta Mesh and SEEN have secured an invaluable opportunity: to mount cutting edge radio equipment on the top of the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning. This high point location allows us to broadcast across great distances, reaching areas of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County we could not reach before. We’ve also partnered with KINBER, who is providing bandwidth via a high speed fiber backbone. Taken as a whole, this site will act as our main “hub,” enabling us to expand our network and work towards delivering on our mission.
Thanks to this new opportunity, we are currently working to get Internet access to the areas of New Kensington-Arnold School District, Cornell School District, and Homewood. More information on the procedures and equipment used for these projects is available on the tech resources page.
We are honored by the number of interested parties who contacted us about setting up their own projects with Meta Mesh. Please reach out if you are interested in what we do and want to explore options for connecting your area.