Surfing the web for free anywhere in downtown Victoria is one small step closer to reality.
That’s thanks in part to MeshMesh, a not-for-profit that aims to provide free Internet to much of the downtown core.
“What we’re doing is for the benefit of the city, and once (businesses) realize that, they sign up,” said Liam McLachlan, project manager of MeshMesh.
Businesses pay a one-time fee of $150. In return MeshMesh supplies a router that securely shares an Internet connection with the public. The business also gets an ad that appears on the screen of anyone using their network.
“We also do some throttling. … That ensures people aren’t abusing the business’s network and they’re not there downloading movies, or spending hours on YouTube, or watching streaming video,” McLachlan said. “Our level of service that we want to deliver is the Internet circa 1999, 2000. It’s not super high-speed, but it’s faster than dial-up, and it gets people online to do email or basic (web browsing).”
There are currently six businesses downtown on the MeshMesh network, but McLachlan says that will grow.
Ken Kelly, general manager of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, says his organization is also launching free Wi-Fi in the downtown core next month.
“The downtown will not be exhaustively or comprehensively covered, but our equipment will be strategically placed in eight zones downtown,” Kelly said. “This is a $25,000 investment by the DVBA in making the downtown techno-current. This is something that is increasingly becoming not as much a luxury, but an expectation from consumers.”
Unlike volunteer-run MeshMesh, the DVBA’s equipment won’t tap in to existing Internet connections courtesy of participant businesses, but rather it will provide an entirely separate network.
“We’re not working through a middle man,” Kelly said. “It’ll be very current, and it will be a sound and solid signal.”
MeshMesh recently won $3,500 from a microfinance-type organization called the Awesome Sh*t Club to help further their cause. McLachlan says the money will go towards building a greater volunteer base to enhance the network.
“The more free Wi-Fi downtown the better. And with the two networks being complementary, that’s going to make downtown a lot better,” he said.
For more on MeshMesh, visit openwifi.ca.