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MIT Preps Wireless Network For Cambridge

A group of researchers and volunteers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is rolling out a university-developed broadband wireless network that is planned to cover the city of Cambridge, Mass., where MIT is located.

Unofficially called the Cambridge Public Internet, the mesh network is robust, easy-to-install, and inexpensive for end users, who won't pay to use the network, at least initially.

The effort, which has the backing of Cambridge city officials, is already up and running in a broad section of the city near MIT. "There are 12 users on it right now, as we speak," said Bob Keyes, Wednesday morning in an interview. Keyes is a volunteer researcher working on the project. "For users, this is unlike other municipal networks where you have to put money up."

If the effort meets its goal of deployment by late summer, it will set some sort of speed record for installment of a municipal Wi-Fi network.

Based on an academic research project at MIT called Roofnet, the project has been in test mode around the university's campus since 2003. It has grown more-or-less organically since then in the city of Cambridge. Variations of Rooftnet have been deployed in other cities including Portland, Oregon, and Berlin, Germany.