Meta Mesh Receives $1.4 million Grant to Expand Free Internet Access

Lead Field Installer, Ben Bondy, installing a MMWC antenna on a participant’s roof. Courtesy Meta Mesh.

Pittsburgh nonprofit Meta Mesh Wireless Communities receives over $1.4 million in foundation funding to expand no-cost Internet access across Southwestern Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, PA (January 11, 2021) / – Two years after the Covid-19 pandemic it clear that reliable home Internet access is essential, Meta Mesh Wireless Communities’ (MMWC) Board of Directors is pleased to announce a significant financial commitment from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, as well as support from two other foundations, to expand operations of the region’s premiere nonprofit Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP). 

The Henry L. Hillman Foundation awarded $1.13 million to MMWC’s WISP initiative, Every1online, which provides in-need communities throughout the region with no-cost, reliable Internet access. Meta Mesh also received contributions from the Richard King Mellon Foundation ($250,000), and the Hopper-Dean Foundation ($51,125), to continue to bridge the digital divide. 

MMWC’s 2022 begins with the expansion of pilot programs in New Kensington and Wilkinsburg. Over the next year, MMWC intends to expand the Every1online network to at least 11 new communities in and around Allegheny County, to be determined based on the level of need.

To date, Every1online has connected over 100 people in Homewood and Coraopolis to no cost in-home Wi-Fi and public access points.  This generous funding commitment exemplifies the broad regional support that exists for bolstering digital equity throughout the Pittsburgh metropolitan area and beyond. 

MMWC provides wireless Internet access solutions to institutional sponsors, like school districts and governmental and nonprofit agencies, that provide services via the Internet. Sponsors work with MMWC to identify households within their service area to receive Internet service free of charge via the Every1online program.

Samantha Garfinkel, Executive Director of MMWC, says: 

“Internet access is no longer a luxury. Excessive cost or an outright lack of reliable Wi-Fi prevents too many families from accessing essential services and fully participating in educational instruction and other parts of modern life. Our organization helps community anchor institutions reach under-served homes and bolster participants’ quality of life – whether it’s libraries bringing baseline connectivity to all, or previously unconnected households whose access is now underwritten by a local school district.”

MMWC has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Penn State University, as well as community organizations, to identify neighborhoods in need and provide services to these locations. Board of Directors Chairperson, Heidi Norman, Acting Director of the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Innovation & Performance, provided the following assessment of MMWC’s potential impact on the region’s Digital Divide:  

“There is no question that the lack of affordable Internet access puts many of our region’s communities at a significant disadvantage. Meta Mesh is an innovative application of technology that produces measurable results more quickly than any other currently-available option. The support of local foundations to the MMWC business plan is an investment in the future that will produce measurable results: more connected households. I applaud our supporters’ foresight, and their willingness to invest in a more digitally-equitable future.” 

MMWC Board of Directors members also include: Stan Waddell, CIO of Carnegie Mellon; Mark Henderson CIO of University of Pittsburgh; and Sascha Meinrath, Palmer Chair in Telecommunications at Penn State University. (Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.) They share a joint statement regarding this major development:

“As technical leaders who have worked for decades to address the digital divide, we are extremely excited to be a part of a vanguard non-profit that is implementing last mile solutions to bolster digital equity. We are committed to supporting reliable, affordable Internet service to communities that need it most. The financial support provided by the foundation community reflects Pittsburgh’s strong commitment to innovation. ” 

Media Contact

Samantha Garfinkel –
Executive Director, Meta Mesh Wireless Communities