Local Company On a Mission to Expand Free Wi-Fi in Pittsburgh
Meta Mesh Wireless Communities received a $120K grant to expand free Wi-Fi in Braddock, the Hill District, Allentown and beyond.
photos by Ryan Haggerty
At any given moment, between 25-75 people are connected to PittMesh, Allentown-based Meta Mesh’s community-owned wireless network in Pittsburgh.
Nearly 25 percent of Pittsburghers don’t have internet at home, and Meta Mesh is trying to change that with a $120,000 grant from the Hillman Foundation to expand Wi-Fi in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.
Adam Longwill, Meta Mesh co-founder and executive director, explains that PittMesh works using mesh connectivity. Through a decentralized, community-based network, PittMesh uses donated bandwidth from local businesses, community supporters and local Internet Service Providers. With more than 60 live sites and 103 devices, this bandwidth is then pushed out via network routers for use.
“Everyone shares a piece of the map,” Longwill says. “Enough devices can route around offline routers.”
With connections already set up throughout Braddock, the Hill District and Allentown, Meta Mesh Wireless Communities looks to expand coverage and plans to build long-distance Wi-Fi connections to additional neighborhoods.
Gisele Fetterman, owner of the Free Store in Braddock, uses the internet provided by Meta Mesh to help families sign up for free social services like SNAP.
“There’s a great sense of pride for the community to have this draw of free Wi-Fi,” Fetterman says. She often sees children around town using the connection to do homework.
Staff of Meta Mesh: Becky Zajdel, Adam Longwill, and Justin Goetz
Becky Zajdel, co-founder of Meta Mesh and community outreach director who grew up in Braddock, says mesh networks have taken off in Europe and Thailand, places prone to natural disasters, political heists or repression.
Zajdel explains the draw of Pittsburgh is its current reinvention.
“Pittsburgh’s post renaissance development and current maker movement is the perfect place for this technology,” says Zajdel.