Last August I announced the installation of some open Meraki wireless access points at 100 Prince Street, making free wifi available to my immediate neighbourhood. They’ve been running for a year now without problem, and although I’ve twiddled with the amount of free bandwidth available (turning it down when outsiders were sucking up enough to make in-home use sluggish), the free wifi has been flowing all year long.
Over the year, my Meraki management dashboard tells me, 371 users transferred 113 GB over the network. Although every one of those 371 has seen a splash page upon connection inviting them to send me an email if they find the access useful, the only person I’ve ever heard from is a newly-moved-in next door neighbour who thanked me for the access while he was waiting to have his own connection installed.
My rationale for leaving the access open to any anonymous wanderer-by is completely Marxist in nature. I think of it like I think of hitchhiking: I’ve used enough free wifi out there in the world that I feel I owe it to the world to serve up some of my own when and where I’m able.
Not everyone agrees with this approach, and, like hitchhiking, it has inherent risks. But I think, ultimately, the obivous good of sharing a useful resource outweighs the phantom bad of someone plotting the downfall of society using my bandwidth.
When we can offer to the world, especially when there are risks, that act of giving creates more of the world we want to live in.
I’ve often thought of my open wifi at home as a flower garden planted at the front of one’s house. It offers something to the street rather than barricading it away in a closed off space in the back. Which of these approaches builds community?
…even if occasionally someone picks a dahlia…
My point being that, while I find your Marxist ideals refreshing, I would hesitate to associate the Meraki brand with those ideals.
From a technical standpoint, the Meraki system gives the splash page and easy access to usage statistics. It also uses some form of WDS to link the units without ethernet? Would it be difficult to achieve as much using OpenWRT?
@Valarie You’re right, this is all something that could be done equally as well with OpenWRT or any of its cousins. Indeed it’s OpenWRT that we use to power the wireless and wired Internet here in the office.
The appeal of the Meraki for me was entirely on the consumer side: it was truly plug-and-play, and I like its very functional management console.
Congrats on a year of free wifi. I too, appreciated Meraki’s simplicity and focus on community networks. However, with the news that they’ve discontinued the $50 Meraki mini (and their Standard tier of service), I’m a little less enamored.
My 9-node mesh (http://public.meraki.com/netwo… will stay Meraki for a while, but if/when I start to build it out, I’ll probably reflash my Meraki minis to the OpenWRT-based ROBIN firmware used by open-mesh.