Free Wireless in Harvard Square

1213902415Two weeks ago, the Harvard Square Business Association officially launched Wi-Fi access throughout the entire square at no cost to users. With no glitches or problems so far, it looks like the HSBA has given us what the Mayor’s Wireless Task Force could not: free wireless.

According to Denise Jillson, executive director of the HSBA, 2,700 users have taken advantage of the mesh network, which extends throughout the entire geographical area of the Square. Jillson told us that an additional DSL line will be installed to extend the coverage to the Inn at Harvard and the Charles Hotel tomorrow, and the system will be closely monitored in the upcoming months to ensure the connection stays fast and glitch-free.
The Association’s discovery of Meraki, a San Franciso-based wireless networking company, allowed the project to be set up for less than $20,000, and the HSBA said they will continue to foot the bill in the future. When asked if the network was installed to encourage more visitors to the Square, Jillson said that it was simply a service the Association wanted to provide, and that many businesses already offered free Wi-Fi in their shops.

Thirty-five of Meraki’s low-cost outdoor routing units were set up by local Wi-Fi company Anaptyx, and Jillson said the Association hopes to increase coverage in the future to include the Cambridge Commons and as MIT’s campus (which might be a nice thank you to Meraki, since the company started out as an MIT research project).

Although the City of Cambridge – along with Harvard University – worked in cooperation with the HSBA to allow routers to be placed around the Square, there are no plans to make the network a city-run effort.