Boris Mann

Open Source. Community. Decentralized Web. Building dev tools at Fission. Cooks & eats.


Community Wireless in Vancouver - FON, Meraki, something else?

So, in recent discussions with folks like Darren Barefoot as well as David Vogt of Mobile Muse (and, of course, kicking the idea around the Bryght offices), it's become clear that community wireless in Vancouver is something that really should happen. We've got the Olympics in 2010 staring us in the face, and it seems like that's a good deadline to try and accomplish a variety of innovative things.

BC Wireless has been around for quite some time, but hasn't really crossed over from the geek side. Actually, I need to give it some more time. I reactivated the wiki account I have there and spent some time looking at the various projects going on. The "to do" of analyzing  the various hardware access points that are available looks promising.

While involvement from the various Vancouver municipalities would be ideal, there are other things that can happen from a grassroots perspective. This led me to start poking around some of the technology pieces.

Both FON and Meraki look interesting. Anyone have pointers to similar, off-the-shelf inexpensive wireless access points? Mesh solutions

FON is closely related to voice / VoIP "stuff" and has a compact router for $30US including shipping. That's cheap enough to pick up a couple just to mess around with. Oops! Except their store only lists the US under North America...The discussion of "what is FON" which describes the range of sharing to pay users is a good place to start. If there is interest (leave a comment) I'll try and get a contact with FON about doing a bulk / special order to Canada. Or at least, Vancouver for starters.

Meraki has had some investment from Google and is currently in beta for both pricing and the service. The hardware units are tied to a back end management system for which they also charge for. I sent an email asking about the beta program and got a price list. The nice thing is that they also have ruggedized outdoor units as opposed to the cheap indoor FON units. As well, they are a mesh solution, so can seamlessly cover wide areas.

I sent a follow up email essentially asking "Why Meraki?"...I guess I'm leery of getting locked into a backend management system that charges fees. FON of course has a system as well, but doesn't charge end users directly.

I'll leave it up to Darren to post a poll / survey asking if you would share your home and/or business data connection in order to help blanket Vancouver in wireless...

Other interesting community wireless projects in Canada include Wireless Toronto and île Sans Fil (Montreal)