I’ve been spending a bit of time researching free and advertising-supported wi-fi because I think its a practicial solution for the digital divide issue that we face today.
The 100 dollar laptop project is related but focuses on international, whereas I am concentrating specifically on solving the problem in the inner cities of the US. There are many independent initiatives happening across the US, and one of the technologies I’ve been keeping a close eye on is the RoofNet project over at MIT.
This low cost mesh network technology has been deployed by various non-profit organizations across the country, including networks built by MIT itself. Aside from their Cambridge campus hotspot, MIT’s feature hotspot is a deployment in the downtown Boston housing complex called Tent City.
On the other side of the country, NetEquality is deploying low income internet access in NE Portland, Oregon based on MIT’s RoofNet technology.
As you can see, its a very grass roots oriented movement, complemented very well by a technology thats low cost, and built from parts available at any Radio Shack.