Need: A login and registration system for a free WiFi network

A note from Steve Pierce regarding a request for ideas and code to help people log into a free WiFi mesh network. Contact him for details at bottom.


HDL.com and volunteers have deployed a free WiFi network in SE Michigan over the last 5 years. With over 1,000 access points deployed and 650,000 unique devices connected, Wireless Ypsi and companion networks such as Detroit Enabled are averaging over 2,500 users per day, making it one of the largest free WiFi networks in the country.

The equipment and connections are paid for by local community groups like Focus Hope and Public Housing along with business owners and community champions. No money is charged to use the WiFi service, nor is there any advertising revenue.

The free network, called Wireless Ypsi and Detroit Enabled is HDL.com’s way of giving back to the community. We help secure Internet bandwidth and donate time and equipment to support the free network.

The struggle we face is making sure we comply with Internet Service providers terms of service agreements. One recent requirement is to not have anonymous access to the network. While we would love to have open and free Internet for everyone, the reality is Internet service costs money and the major carriers like Comcast and AT&T don’t provide the service for free. So while Wireless Ypsi and Detroit Enabled offer free WiFi for residents, business and visitors, someone still needs to pay for the connections.

To continue to use these paid connections we need a system that will allow people to sign up for free accounts to use the service. We want something akin to Facebook or Twitter that will allow for instant sign up and use of the free WiFi network.

Users would provide their name, address, phone and email address and chose a secure password. They would immediately be granted access to the network for one day. A confirmation email link is sent to the email address and it must be confirmed to continue to use the service beyond the first day.

Authentication would use a RADIUS server or similar service which would need to be selected, as well. We must insure proper data security and programming techniques are used to protect the data.

Not having a login and registration system is the single largest barrier we face today to continued large scale deployments of free WiFi. We have proven with our 5 year success story that the network is reliable and sustainable. Yet not having a login and registration system has virtually stopped us from expanding services into new areas until we can address this need.

Contact: Steve Pierce, Steve@HDL.com or 734-274-4602

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