Earthlink failed. Google's effort didn't work out. But now a startup called Meraki Networks—a company we've been following for some time—hopes to construct a city-wide Wi-Fi network in San Francisco within the next year. To make it work, the company will have to persuade thousands of San Francisco residents to set up radio repeaters in their homes and on rooftops (including versions like the coming-soon solar-powered version pictured here).
While this sounds like a monumental task, it may prove easier than Earthlink's plan, which called for setting up transmitters on public property and, as a result, became bogged down in bureaucracy. In all, Meraki will need to set up more than 10,000 repeaters, according to the company's CEO. Right now, Meraki has installed enough of the devices to give 40,000 people in the city free access. But this isn't just about San Francisco. Meraki will offer the service free there, but it has much bigger plans. The company hopes that the San Francisco project will prove the viability of its technology, which it then hopes to sell to other countries to generate revenue.
In December, PopSci gave Meraki a Grand Award in our annual Best of What's New issue; we're happy to see them as ambitious as ever.—Gregory Mone