Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have a map of what your network covers/everywhere you are?
Yes. at www.pittmesh.net.
What’s the difference between Meta Mesh and PittMesh?
Meta Mesh is the non-profit organization. PittMesh is the name of the Community Wireless Network that we are building in the Greater Pittsburgh area.
I don't live in Pittsburgh, can I use this where I live?
Sure! The PittMesh network is a single network with many links forming between different network segments. "All" our routers do is use WiFi to build a network without any central control. They happen to have the ability to disseminate Internet access in a scalable way. You can put these devices up anywhere with power and they will form a network if they are close enough to one another.
You will not be able to use PittMesh-specific services and we recommend reading our configuration instructions closely to avoid inserting unnecessary configurations that may complicate your experience using your router/network. If you would like us to make sure the configurations are appropriate for your situation, send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How close do your AP150/AP300 devices have to be to one another to work?
That's a somewhat difficult question. Walls, bodies, trees, and water all effect how far away you can be to use these devices. In addition, nearby 2.4GHz devices will congest the air and further limit distances because of the Hidden Node Problem. They are very low power, clocking in at about 18dBm or 63mW. In an open field we have 20mbps connections at 200 feet. Your mileage WILL vary and we cannot guarantee they'll work in any situation at any distance because there are so many variables. If you're not satisfied with your device, you can return it within 30 days and we can refund you.
Can I leave my ISP and get free Internet if I buy one of your routers?
Sorry, no. Our solution is NOT a replacement for an Internet Service Provider. It IS a low-cost and scalable way to distribute Internet access and build a standalone network at moderate speeds. We focus on bridging the Digital Divide by using these devices for open public WiFi in communities that could not otherwise afford it. Usually that means public spaces like parks and business districts. We are not an ISP and our technology is best used to build a network in open public spaces.
Well yeah, fine, but can't I leech Internet access from a Community WiFi Network by putting up a router on my home?
You can. But you'll be disappointed. We have experimented with "bringing PittMesh inside" peoples' homes. While they can usually be in their street-facing rooms and get signal, the strength of the WiFi is simply not strong enough to supply their entire building. This is a public WiFi solution.
How does a Community Wireless Network provide “free” public WiFi?
In a nutshell, donors share their unused Internet bandwidth by installing a “node” - simply, one or more wireless routers on the premises. That signal is then broadcast out into the neighborhood to create a Community Wireless Network. “Repeater nodes” (routers that are not directly connected to an Internet source) may also be installed to relay the wireless signal, creating greater network coverage for the area. The more volunteers or “node hosts”, the stronger the connection. By donating bandwidth and hosting repeater nodes, public WiFi can be achieved in a neighborhood without recurring fees or expensive IT maintenance contracts! For a longer description, check out our page on describing how it works and why it's a great idea HERE.
Is the Community Network/PittMesh secure?
Yes and no. There are two ways we look at this question.
First, it's important to understand the limitations of the 802.11 security measures. You should understand that none of them are unbreakable- even WPA2 Enterprise. Watch Jon Zeolla's Talk on the subject. Jon works with Steel City Information Security and is very well-versed in how bad guys break WiFi security. PittMesh is an open network and therefore any traffic you send is not encrypted by the WiFi router itself and is therefore easily readable by anyone nearby. With that said, we recommend you only use HTTPS websites and encrypted services. Increasingly, websites use end-to-end encryption and more operating systems allow for automatic VPN serivces which encrypt all traffic to an exit point on the Internet, more or less solving this problem. Please use WiFi Assistant on an Android device and use a VPN service if you are able.
The other way we answer this question is regarding security of the router host's connected network. We have in place firewall rules that prevent anyone "on the mesh" from accessing private IP ranges. So if someone tries to access devices on your home network, they won't be able to because our routers simply drop the requests when they realize they are destined for a forbidden IP address. Problem solved.
If I donate bandwidth or supply a router and/or a repeater, am I liable for any illegal activity that someone does on the open network?
Probably not. But you may be asked to participate in the law enforcement's investigation. Our routers and configurations do not anonymize you as a connected device. You can still be found. With that said, Meta Mesh does not collect any information beyond aggregated usage data from SNMP and Graphite scripts. Your MAC address is not sent to Meta Mesh nor is any description of what you are using PittMesh for. All we can see is the total amount of bandwidth being used to use the Internet, mesh resources, and how many devices currently have DHCP leases from a particular router. We even make some of this info public. Check out www.pittmesh.net for live usage data!
Aren't you selling open source software?
No. All the firmware and configurations we use are openly available to anyone. We sell devices that we source, assemble, and configure. Should you purchase one of "our" devices, you are paying for the labor involved in the research, design, and development of your hand-crafted router.
Where is your open source software?
Is WiFi dangerous to my health?
No, not at the power levels specified by the 802.11 protocol. Just... Just read this.
I bought a PittMesh router/ configured my own-- and the next day my computer got a virus! Your technology did this!
No. It didn't. As stated above, we have added measures to prevent access to your network. What you experienced is a coincidence. The likelihood that someone saw you put up a device, broke the password for your router, discovered what devices are on your network, managed to break in to that device and decided to install a toolbar in Internet Explorer 7 is... remote.
How can I support you and your mission?
Hire us for a private job. Tell us about your need for connectivity. Connect us with people who you think can help fund a project for your neighborhood. And don't forget: DONATE!