Jumat, 04 Januari 2008

Meraki Gives Free Wi-Fi to San Francisco (NewsFactor)

Meraki, a wireless-networking startup, announced plans on Friday to deploy a citywide wireless network that will provide free Internet access for every neighborhood in San Francisco.

The company also announced receiving funding of $20 million from Sequoia Capital, DAG Ventures, Northgate Capital, and other investors.

Meraki is essentially picking up where Google and Earthlink left off, both of which had abandoned similar wireless plans for San Francisco. Sanjit Biswas, CEO and cofounder of Meraki, called the initiative the "largest real-world test network of its kind."


Meraki launched a "Free the Net" program last year in San Francisco in selected neighborhoods. That program will be the model for the new citywide initiative.

Merakis technology creates a wireless network by combining signals from hundreds or thousands of solar-powered radio repeaters installed on rooftops, balconies, and windows, extending Wi-Fi access to city residents in their homes and businesses.

Meraki plans to fund the entire cost for establishing the free network across San Francisco, as part of an effort to showcase for other communities how the companys technology can allow the creation of citywide networks at a fraction of current costs.

No public funds will be used to build the network. Meraki said it expects to have every neighborhood in San Francisco up and running by midyear.


It is important that people realize Meraki is not making this service available for free elsewhere, according to Craig Settles, an Oakland-based wireless consultant. Individuals have to step up to provide DSL or some other high-speed landline access for some of these repeaters, he explained.

"Meraki is doing what EarthLink should have done -- use the big, high-profile city as a marquee account, but sell the service to everyone else," Settles said. "Dont get sucked in to the free hype."

Still, Settles added, municipalities have to realize that the cost of the Meraki solution is going to be a lot less than a typical municipal wireless network. Whats more, he continued, the ad-based revenue is very much driven from the community level, so some of the development costs are going to be borne by end users.

He concluded by saying that it would be easier for cities to do what Wireless Philadelphia is doing, which is "finding government agencies, philanthropic organizations, and others to underwrite the cost of getting this technology into the hands of low-income communities."

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