In-Home WiFi Pilot Project
Meta Mesh Wireless Communities is proud to announce our In-Home WiFi pilot project: Internet Access for Distanced Learning in Three In-need Pittsburgh Communities: Homewood, Coraopolis, and New Kensington.
The purpose of this project is to start bridging Pittsburgh’s Digital Divide by deploying a community-based, non-profit Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP). This WISP is a collaborative effort that taps on existing resources and strategic community partners to provide the last mile solution: getting internet into the homes of Pittsburghers who need it most.
This Pilot Project is the first iteration of a network design that will service households in New Kensington, Coraopolis, and Homewood. The Pilot Project prioritizes households with students who require internet access for distance learning, and will provide 12 months of In-Home WiFi at no charge to participating households.
How it works:
Meta Mesh Wireless Communities has been granted permission to mount our HD antennas on the top of the Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus. This high-point location allows us to broadcast our network to areas across the Greater Pittsburgh Area. And, in addition to its height, the Cathedral is connected a fiber optic network that we can transform into a “super-node” to receive and distribute network traffic at broadband speeds. We think of the Cathedral as our main gateway to the internet.
The Cathedral “super-node” communicates with our local towers in the service areas (New Kensington, Coraopolis, and Homewood). Rather than constructing towers from scratch, we have secured permission to mount our local tower equipment on existing structures. We have chosen structures that are in strategic locations, allowing us to broadcast our network and cover a significant portion of the targeted communities. For example, one “tower” is actually a water tower that has our antenna on top of it.
This first phase of the project allows us to connect ~150 households in each of the three targeted communities. However, we expect to increase this number over time. We will also seek to expand our coverage area as well in order to service many more locations across Pittsburgh.
Just like a typical Internet Service Provider, Meta Mesh connects people’s homes through a receiver (the white mushroom-shaped device) and a modem (the black cube device). The receiver is mounted to the exterior of the home (like a Dish network satellite). The modem is inside, and connected to the receiver through an ethernet wire. Both devices are powered by one of the home’s electrical outlets.
This equipment, along with our antennas, are sourced from a company called Ubiquiti, and are all top of the line WiFi products. Each home network is secure and password-protected. Our target speeds per house are 50mbps download and 25mbps upload. These speeds allow for multiple users in the same household to download/stream while on video calls.
We want your input–if you have any specific questions about this pilot project, or simply want to know more about Meta Mesh, our programs, and our partnerships, please contact us!
We have been able to make this dream project a reality through a collaborative and cross-sectional effort from Higher Education Institutions, Digital Inclusion Organizations, and Community Groups. With gratitude, we thank the following groups for the tremendous part they have played in this project.
Carnegie Mellon University: A team of collaborators from CMU’s School of Computer Science and the Simon Initiative have coordinated the project connections to CMU and Pitt, provided critical start-up funding for the project and liaise to key stakeholders and community groups. They offer ongoing project design, implementation, and fundraising support.
University of Pittsburgh: Pitt IT, the CIO Office, and Community & Governmental Relations are Key Stakeholders and Integral Collaborators contributing facility access and funding to enable use of the Cathedral of Learning as the “Super Node/hub.” They will support stakeholder and community involvement in additional neighborhoods following the pilot.
The Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER): KINBER is a vendor partner to both CMU and Pitt and will provide “gateway” to the internet through PennREN Fiber, to be broadcasted from the Cathedral of Learning.
Participating School Districts and Community Groups: The New Kensington-Arnold school district and Cornell (Coraopolis) school districts, as well as the Homewood Children’s Village are collaborators in this pilot project. They bring vital expertise to this project, leading the effort to build community buy-in, leveraging social capital to facilitate the creation of WISP infrastructure, and identifying households in need of internet connectivity. They also advise CMU, Pitt, and Meta Mesh partners on community need and intentional partnership practices.