In this Internetty bubble we so rarely leave, it’s easy to forget that millions of people in urban areas are within range of a functioning WiFi connection, but can’t necessarily afford it. New York-based startup KeyWiFi wants to help change that, by allowing individuals to rent out their unused WiFi connections for a nominal fee to those who can’t afford Internet.
“Most hotspots are only used for a few hours a day, and rarely to full capacity,” reads KeyWiFi’s mission page. “With KeyWifi, this unused bandwidth does not become idle, but available to whomever you want, whenever you desire. This means individuals, families, and businesses can use the internet in a collaborative fashion that radically reduces waste and cuts costs for all.”
In order to help them launch this project, they’ve started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, asking for a total goal of $20,000. The team has already created the backend, which allows users to share their WiFi without buying new hardware or downloading clunky software. KeyWifi is entirely web-based, but they’re looking to raise the funds to help build out the U.I. “We have proved out our ‘backbone’ technology that lets us share wifi securely,” they wrote on the campaign page. “Now we are completing our ‘front end’ technology: the system that allows anyone to sign up to share wifi.”
Much like room rental service Airbnb or car sharing services like City Car Share, KeyWiFi is all about efficiency. It essentially does the same thing for your WiFi as Airbnb does for your apartment: rents it out to people when you’re not using it. It’s certainly an interesting idea, but one that will really only work in urban areas with already existing WiFi infrastructure.
While the concept of renting out your wireless network might make you a bit uncomfortable, KeyWifi insists that it’s entirely safe and equipped with top of the line encryption and security services. And it’s certainly safer than sharing your WiFi password, which in some circles is considered “more personal than sharing a toothbrush.”
“Think of all the spare WiFi not being used all around you and the people who might want to use it,” KeyWiFi CEO Adam Black told Talking Points Memo. “The digital divide is within 100 yards of where you live. That’s a problem.”