Meraki promises. Meraki delivers.
I recently took delivery of a Meraki access point. I didn’t really need another access point but the hype eventually got to me. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what it would do. All I knew, was what I had been told…
- The Meraki would bring free or cheap internet
- Meraki will wrestle the lucrative internet subscriber market from the grip of Telstra and Optus
- Meraki would allow users to route around what isn’t working and arrive somewhere better than it was before
If all this talk doesn’t yet have you convinced, then maybe my experience with a Meraki will.
5 days after installing my Meraki I had earned $20US and my neighbours love me!
The Meraki Dashboard allows you to sell your unused bandwidth (or as Meraki describes it, ‘Monetise’). Within the ‘Configure’ area of the Meraki Dashboard my newly created network is automatically set to be free for a period of 20 minutes. I am then able to set my paid access levels. I currently charge a modest $0.50US per hour for a 250kbps connection and for those that want a bit more speed, $1.00US gets them a 500kbps connection.
The monetisation of your under utilised monthly bandwidth is a handy feature, but not one that motivated my purchase. I am more interested in joining the wider Meraki network and paying less for my bandwidth. If someone else can use my bandwidth when I am not, and vice versa, than that’s a good thing. My aim is to completely pay off my hardware and then I will flick part of my connection over to free public use. The Meraki dashboard allows you to split your connection into an uninhibited local private network and a public network. I will either speed up or slow down the allowable bandwidth on the public network depending on whether I am nearing my monthly quota or not.
Meraki is busy spreading the hype in San Francisco, and its working. Many neighbourhoods now have free access to the net via a wireless Meraki network identified as ‘freethenet’ (SSID). So how do we do create a free wireless network here in Australia, or in my case, Redfern? It is possible to share an internet connection over a very large distance using a mesh of repeaters, however as the mesh grows, so do the number of users, and there in lies the challenge. In order to achieve a large free-to-use wireless network there must be many within the network willing to share their ISP provided internet connection, a connection they pay for. Now I am not a radio-wireless geek so I am only guessing, but I would expect that in order for this to work, every 10th house in a street would need to share their paid internet connection, and every 5th house would need a repeater. Not a big ask, but it remains a challenge. I think it can be done, we just need to spread the word.
Heck, you’re not using all your bandwidth anyway. Run some ads over the connection you share if you want to. Really? Ads? Yes, Meraki also allows you to place your own ads or messages in web pages that are served using your public network. The messages are relatively unobtrusive (I love that word), served in what appears like a toolbar at the top of the web page. Advertise what ever you want… your business, your favourite corner store, your political views – its up to you.
The Meraki dashboard comes packed with some great usage reports. View usage across all Meraki devices or view usage per device (a device being either a gateway or a repeater). The email addresses of those that use your connection are available as well so if you expect your service to be unavailable for a period of time you could email your happy subscribers and give them advance warning – like all good ISP’s would Not sure how that stacks up in terms of privacy though.
Go forward and multiply
Wireless mesh networking is truly an exciting development. The only reason why it hasn’t worked in the past is because we haven’t had a device that makes it easy for the technology unsavvy consumer to setup and use. We have that now. I believe that the reason why we have expensive broadband in Australia is because we rely on wire being laid to our doorstep. It is time to reap the benefits of wireless. It’s time for a cheaper, free internet. And to adapt a phrase from the Treasurer of the last Federal Government: “Get a Meraki for yourself, one for your husband and one for the country”.