COVID-19 has affected families all over the City of Pittsburgh and forced students to complete their academic year online. Some districts are talking about the possibility of remaining closed for the Fall semester as well. In order to live and work in today's digital society, it is essential to have access to the Internet.
But in Pittsburgh alone, we have found that up to 60% of households in low-income communities do not have Broadband access in their homes, let alone access that is fast enough for their children to be attend classes online. Our city has worked very hard to close educational gaps for students in these communities, but this crisis and a lack of resources has delayed that progress. Proper Internet access technology to learn from home is necessary for the future success of these students.
Meta Mesh has successfully developed strategies to provide Internet access for targeted students, sustainable public WiFi, and mobile hotspot technology that can serve dozens of students simultaneously. Too often the high initial and recurring costs for an "enterprise grade" public WiFi network are too much for a small neighborhood to bear. We are perfecting a model that requires low up-front investment, no monthly fees, and organizes existing people and neighborhood resources to maintain and monitor connectivity for the public benefit. Meta Mesh works to bridge the Digital Divide in a meaningful and permanent way.
1. Targeted Connectivity: Internet access focused on families in Pittsburgh that do not have and cannot afford Internet access. This is a great short-term solution, especially during crisis situations and school closings. We utilize existing Internet connections in vulnerable communities and wirelessly transmit it to the homes of students who otherwise cannot get online.
2. Public WiFi: With libraries and community centers shuttered and the risk of COVID-19 transmission still dangerously high, our neighborhoods need outdoor connectivity during the warm months and large, indoor locations to obtain Internet access in colder ones. Our model for public WiFi enables both of these types of locations to be connected with minimal overhead and recurring costs.
3. The "WiFi Wagon Kit" for Mobile Connectivity: This is a cell-phone based WiFi hotspot that can live inside of a vehicle and be deployed wherever it is needed in a neighborhood. We use an enterprise-grade, multi-SIM card system to boost speeds beyond what consumer-grade hotspots can offer. These kits can be powered by any car battery, are easy to install, and can be remotely monitored and maintained by Meta Mesh Wireless Communities.
Short-Term: We need $50,000 in order to receive a matching grant of $50,000. This funding will allow us to provide Internet access to vulnerable Pittsburgh neighborhoods in immediate need.
Long-Term: Meta Mesh is working with local foundations and institutions to create the United States' first non-profit Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP). We also recognize there are communities in need outside of our hometown and will work to build future networks to provide for more rural areas.
COST AND OUTREACH:
For targeted connectivity, it costs roughly $1,000 to install the necessary devices. Public WiFi drops the average cost to about $500 per device. Our WiFi Wagon Kits can be purchased for around $3,000. With $100,000 we could help thousands of users get connected throughout Pittsburgh each day. That's a lot of Internet!
The COVID-19 crisis is only one example of why bridging the Digital Divide is so important. Job applications, training, access to government resources, medical and professional communication, and many other uses are all part of the Digital Divide. Our models can achieve so much so quickly for our Pittsburgh communities.
Check in on our progress at www.PittMesh.net!