Philadelphians may remember Wireless Philadelphia and how the Street administration teased us all with the idea of affordable wireless hot spots spanning the city. By the time Michael Nutter took office, Wireless Philadelphia was just another lifeless municipal endeavor, and we were all stuck with internet access from our current corporate providers.
Now, those wireless pipe-dreams may actually become a reality. This time, not under the careful supervision of an overarching nonprofit organization. Rather, citywide accessibility to wireless internet could come in the form of a panda. As in, a man in a panda suit. Well, a man in a panda suit representing a startup.
And that startup is called Bamboowifi.
Founded by James Gregory and David Platt, Bamboowifi is a wireless internet service provider that operates by creating a mesh of wireless access points across the city. For $30 a month, Bamboowifi guarantees customers will never have to use up the entirety of their data plans trying to listen to Serial on the subway.
“You don’t need a router or a modem,” said Gregory, a translator and internet marketer. That equipment will be located at every access point — and by access point, Gregory means within small businesses.
Those businesses will need to purchase about $2,000 worth of equipment, though Gregory and Platt don’t believe it will be too hard a sell. There are incentives — businesses will never have to worry about an internet bill ever again, and will be eligible for monthly commission in conjunction with internet usage.
A mesh network in Red Hook, Brooklyn has generated much interest.
As of now, there are no businesses onboard the Bamboowifi bandwagon. To be fair, the cofounders haven’t even started courting them yet.
Why? Gregory says they’re waiting until after Bamboowifi launches a crowdfunding campaign in early February on Kickstarter. That’s when businesses will be able to see that this is what consumers want, he said.
Bamboowifi’s marketing plan? Gregory tells us they’ll be distributing “thousands of flyers” in Northern Liberties and Fishtown, where they plan on launching a pilot program this coming spring. He admits the strategy is more archaic than what you’d expect from a tech startup, but believes it’s still the best way to get potential customers’ attention.
Gregory is adamant about his network being a more effective, cheaper alternative for Philly residents than Comcast or Verizon. “Be a company that gives a shit about what your customers are asking for,” he said
Why bamboo? “It’s organic and grows quickly,” Gregory told us.