The Meta Mesh Network uses different strategies to address different neighborhood or event needs–basically, we wear many hats. Our approach is tailored to each project so that as many people as possible can have reliable access to the Internet (as often as they need it) without breaking the bank.
We are the first non-profit Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) in the country, and only the fourth in the world to deploy this model on a city-wide scale. Currently, we are working to provide Internet access for the City of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas. As a WISP, we provide in-home, password protected WiFi, as well as Public-Space WiFi for outside areas, such as streets and parks. We also offer Mobile WiFi that can be driven to any place in need of hotspot access.
When you get down to it, The Meta Mesh Network functions not too differently from the big brand-name Wireless Internet Service Providers that you are probably using right now. The key difference is that we are NOT driven by profit. All our programs rely on a sustainable model, which is a combination of community cost-sharing, fundraising, and strategic local partnerships. We have developed an Internet solution tailor-made to Pittsburgh that requires low up-front investment, no monthly fees (rather, a suggested donation), and organizes existing people and neighborhood resources to maintain good connectivity for the public benefit.
Like telecom giants, we will have towers across the Pittsburgh area. Because our network is local, we don’t need to construct huge cell towers to connect people to the Internet – we just use radio towers that are shorter and cheaper to construct (OR we place our antennas on top of existing structures). These towers are strategically placed so that they have a clear line-of-sight to each other and to our main hub: the Cathedral of Learning. This model is the same type of hierarchical networking that big WISPs use.
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What sets us apart from other WISPs: we are not-for-profit, which means we don’t charge inflated fees for equipment, installation, maintenance, system administration, and so on.
Our organization is grant and donor funded, so the initial build out is fully covered for each project. That includes the installation of equipment as well as the provision of in-home routers. Rather than demanding a fee for service, we ask users for a suggested donation of $10/month per household to help us keep our network strong and healthy. That being said, we will NEVER withhold services from any user if they do not donate.
The whole point of this venture is to provide Internet while reducing financial strain on underserved areas. Meta Mesh helps our community partners find ways to cover the monthly cost communally. This page contains a more detailed list of ways we help communities cover monthly maintenance fees.
Our Home WiFi is encrypted and password-protected, so it is just as secure as commercial in-home WiFi options.
Public-Space WiFi is another way we keep community members connected to the Internet, specifically when they are outside of their homes. Similar to the concept of public WiFi (which is the type of access you would have at a coffee shop or library), our Public-Space WiFi allows users in connected areas to access the Internet from places like the sidewalk or a park.
We use mesh technology to create connection points within a certain geographical area. Mesh Technology is essentially a point-to-point (PtP) WiFi emitting device that is mounted to the exterior of a home or structure. The PtP device projects the network in a “bubble” that connects to other nearby PtP devices, creating a mesh of routes that all lead back to the Internet.
The mesh model is great for connecting local public spaces. For example, this Allentown neighborhood is on-mesh, meaning that users can get online as long as their device is within range of one of our PtP devices.
Meta Mesh also provides Mobile WiFi with our very own WiFi Wagon kits! With a specialty cell-tower-based WiFi hotspot in a vehicle, we can literally drive connectivity to areas that need the Internet or lend it out for an event and just drop it off!
Contact us if you want to learn more about our Mobile WiFi projects.