Why I'm pushing the Oakdale OpenMesh project

An open community wifi network is important for many reasons. Care to read a few?

3 min read Filed in oakdale openmesh

Some time last year, I was having lunch at a local restaurant. As per typical, the cell data reception was yet again lying to me, showing a me a full set of bars and yet no data was to be seen. The restaurant had a wifi connection available but the point was acting up again and wouldn’t let anyone connect.

Likely this story sounds familiar; we’ve all experienced this problem. It’s one of those pain points that doesn’t ruin your day, but is nonetheless frustrating.

However, after repeated occurrences, it stops being frustrating and begins being a problem.

So I drove around Oakdale, and I talked to local businesses. And their opinion of offering wifi to their customs was the following:

  • Customers ask for wifi, so we have it
  • I’m not technical, and it’s a pain to keep working

Wifi it seemed was a pain point. So, myself and team at Stickman decided that we would attempt to address this problem on a wide scale. We decided to dive into building a wifi mesh.

Ah, history

My first interaction with wifi mesh was a very long time ago, way back in the olden days when I was still living in Seattle. Folks in Seattle had gotten together and formed a decentralized organization called Seattle Wireless, with the single goal to decentralize Internet access through a community organized mesh.

Now, this was 2000. This wasn’t easy, but it did work. So much so that it still works, 13 years later. Nodes come and go, but the mesh lives on.

I had seen it first hand, and through, hey, why not small town Oakdale? We can swing this.

This is not easy

In 2013, wifi meshes haven’t gotten any easier. You can roll your own points on top of Batman-adv on top of OpenWRT. It’ll work, but our initial need was to have something really, really easy to roll out. We needed something that was as plug-and-play as possible that we could manage remotely without the heavy lifting.

So we bought all kinds of points. We tried them all. We rolled some software. Heck, we even hacked on some hardware. But at the end of the day we were not satisfied.

Off the shelf from Open-Mesh

Eventually we came to a company called Open-Mesh, which makes a cloud controlled (AWS backed) points. You assign them to your network, where they live, and literally just plug them. They grab config and just work.


We deployed 10 as a test and they just work. Super impressed. So we settled on them and haven’t looked back.

But why?

Justin you say, I don’t care about technical mumbo-jumbo, why in the world does this matter?

A community driven wifi open mesh, powered by business and individuals, is a step in not only helping others but also a step in educating others. If you’re disconnected you’re missing out on 80% of the job postings available. You’re missing education opportunities. You’re not interacting with what is now a truly global community. You can’t live in a bubble.

So I’m cheerleading. I’m pushing. I’m trying to elicit change. Not easy to do, but not going to stop me. :-)