Newport ‘Mesh Internet’ Project Wants to Provide More Wi-Fi — and Hope
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Posted by: Jeff Couture
Diane Peel is the director of Newport Wireless Mesh, a nonprofit that, through a technology called “mesh internet,” provides low-cost wireless access to a low-income neighborhood in the city’s downtown. As others in the Northeast Kingdom are trying to increase the availability of high-speed broadband, the Newport group is focused on one of the barriers to basic internet access: the price tag.
“Access to information is the whole future,” Peel said. “It’s not fair to low-income people that they can’t afford access to that information.”
The project started about four years ago and began in earnest last year, with eight households now signed up and more planned on the horizon, Peel said. In June, it received a $3,000 grant from the Vermont Community Foundation to cover the costs of equipment.
Peel’s hope is that hooking up those households with relatively cheap internet, at $15 per month or $150 per year, will help people search for and apply to jobs and engage them in an uplifting community effort.
The technology behind it all, mesh internet, works like this. Fiber-optic cables are connected to devices — like one mounted atop the United Church of Newport — that broadcast wireless signals to “access points” stationed around the area.
The signal is picked up by a conventional router at an access point and sent to a specialized mesh router. Both are fixed to a pole and secured above the ground. The mesh router sends the signal to a home router that someone can connect to with a phone or computer.