Meta Mesh Wireless Communities has seen its share of changes in just a few months, from new management to an injection of grants. Now it’s getting a new name to go along with an expanded approach to bringing the internet to underserved communities.
Founded in 2015, the Allentown-based organization has spent the past year working to bring the internet directly to the people who need it most through its Every1online initiative, which provides the receiver, router and other necessary technologies and connects them to a private Wi-Fi network free of charge. The network is anchored by signal towers atop buildings such as University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning in Oakland. (More on that here.)
Costs are covered by local stakeholders such as school districts or businesses. Additionally, the Every1online initiative has been funded by grants such as the $1.4 million grant from the Henry L. Hillman Foundationthe Richard King Mellon Foundation and the Hopper Dean Foundation this past January. The goal was to use the funding to expand the reach of the organization from 100 users to 1,000 people newly online by the end of 2022. So far, the organization has managed to cover areas such as Coraopolis, Homewood and Wilkinsburg, with plans to launch a fiber optic network as well as a wireless network for Johnstown residents at the end of the year, general manager Colby Hollabaugh Told Technically.
While at the Oaklander Hotel Commemorating both the Every1online initiative that went through its first year and the nonprofit that successfully completed nearly 100 installs, Hollabaugh said the team recently reflected on the organization’s past and thought in the future.
“We worked together as a team to talk about how we’re enjoying the next part of our experience, and what we really took away was that our community was at the center of the story we wanted to tell. “, he said after addressing supporters of the organization at the happy hour event last Wednesday.
To support its vision for the future of the organization, Meta Mesh Wireless Communities will now be called Community Internet Solutions.
Why? According to Hollabaugh, in addition to the pride the organization takes from work done in communities like New Kensington and Homewood, the previous name suggests the future is only wireless, while Hollabaugh says there will be many routes to connect residents to internet access.
“Some communities will need wireless connectivity – imagine a home really off the beaten path – [and] wireless will be a very viable solution for them for a long time,” Hollabaugh said. But there are other technologies [like] CBRS [Citizens Broadband Radio Service]technologies that allow us to effectively connect communities by using community infrastructure to host water towers, buildings, and more. We will provide [users with] higher-speed connectivities, greater resilience in the future, and a better ability to update or upgrade their bandwidth needs as the community grows.
Hollaborough, who is new to his role since May 2022, stressed that what is now Community Internet Solutions will continue to work to ensure underserved Pittsburghers are not denied participation in the 21st century because of where they live. . In 2020, approximately 800 000 Pennsylvania households still lack consistent access, and in the same year, a Pittsburgh Public Schools investigation found that virtual learning was not available to 1,500 of its 23,000 students because they lacked internet access.
“A hundred connections in a year is a very big task for a nonprofit,” Hollabaugh said. “Once someone brings a community’s need to our attention, we will work together to assess the existing infrastructure and connection to meet that community’s Internet needs.”