Wireless Ypsi spreads its wings with big plans for second year

Wireless Ypsi, the little Internet-access engine that could, is picking up speed as it enters its second year of existence.

The free community-based Internet access system has spread well beyond its original boundaries of downtown Ypsilanti. It now covers points all over Washtenaw and Wayne counties and continues to spread. More than 500 people a day are logging onto the system.

"We're going beyond downtown Ypsilanti," co-founder Steve Pierce says. "We can relay wireless Ypsi to anywhere in the world with an Internet connection."

Right now that covers large swaths of Ypsilanti and smaller sections of Ann Arbor, Whitmore Lake, Superior Township, Dearborn and Trenton. It's also spreading north into Oakland County with a testing site planned for Clawson. Pierce is even talking about expanding as far as Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Florida Keys.

That doesn't mean its forgetting about its roots in Ypsilanti. Pierce and his co-founder, Brian Robb, are drawing up a proposal for the housing commission to expand the service into low-income housing and other places the Internet boom has yet to reach.

The initiative, which is run more like a non-profit than a business, does this with
Meraki technology. The Google-funded start up uses off-white transmitters that look like a child's walkie talkie to connect Internet hot spots at local businesses, institutions and homes. The transmitters use the extra bandwidth from the hot spots to create a mesh-like net of Wi-Fi coverage.

Similar systems are spreading in San Francisco, Pittsburgh and San Diego. More than 250,000 different people have logged onto San Francisco’s Meraki network, which covers large sections of the city and has the goal of reaching every neighborhood.

Source: Steve Pierce, co-founder of Wireless Ypsi
Writer: Jon Zemke
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