NYConvergence recently heard from Adam Black, founder of a Brooklyn company called KeyWifi which up to now has been self-funded and is currently on the hunt for $800K in financing for a disruptive platform that allows anyone, anywhere to rent their WiFi to others.
The WiFi-based sharing system opens up hotspots to those who can’t afford them now, Black said, and requires no additional hardware or software. Simultaneously, KeyWifi increases the demand for WiFi from those who are not now served, eventually creating more opportunities for ISPs to extend their brands, he added.
KeyWifi is about to demonstrate its product at the Contact Summit 2011 conference in New York on October 20, in a one-time alliance with Clearwire. The company spent the summer enhancing the KeyWifi 2.0 product’s security properties to a point, Black said, that the security solution alone could be sold separately.
The product will also undergo a test run with the East River Development Authority (ERDA) at the Queensbridge public housing development in Long Island City, Black said. The test run, which will start this month and last through the end of the year, will involve a survey of residents to find out who is online, who is not online, and who would like to be online if the cost was only $10/month, Black said. Then KeyWifi will “facilitate those interactions and bit by bit get the whole area covered by a WiFi zone.”
KeyWifi will use existing as well as new WiFi hotspots to provide up to 10,000 residents the opportunity to access the web. Bishop Mitchell Taylor, ERDA Founder and President said the organization partnered with KeyWifi in an attempt to “bridge the digital divide in public housing communities, beginning with Queensbridge…”
One of the first questions anyone asks Black, he said, is “what about the ISPs, how do they react when asked if the WiFi they license to one entity is shared?” Black says that there are many ISPs who are onboard with the concept, including NY-based Ace Innovative Networks. Earthlink and Speakeasy have traditionally supported the idea of WiFi sharing, he said, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a list of ISPs who are sympathetic to the idea.
The product, in beta on the company’s website, works like this: people sign up with KeyWifi as either a supplier or a user. Suppliers create a personal “key” on the site, which allows them to supply access to their WiFi hotspot to verified users that the supplier approves. Suppliers can block access by changing the lock and getting a different digital key. Users pay $9.89 a month to rent several keys from the community of suppliers. Suppliers receive about 2/3rds of the total fees paid for supplier hotspot use in accordance with KeyWifi’s fee-sharing system. KeyWifi says it expects that suppliers who rent their keys to from 3-5 people who use their hotspot exclusively will “receive enough fees to cover most” of their internet bill.