What the Meraki network has put together is new, but the individual bits that make it up are not. The solar powered wifi box sells for around 100 dollars but it is also something your could do yourself with some of the products in our online store and a visit to your computer hardware store.
What makes the Meraki system impressive is that it uses a mesh network so that you can connect several of their wireless routers to span really great distances, and combined it with solar power. without access to mains power!
For example, your neighbour, one kilometre away has a broadband internet connection that he doesn’t mind sharing with your off-grid mansion. But you are tired of trudging up there to use it. One solution is to buy a few of these solar powered mesh routers, or build your own, and place them in a line about 700 feet apart from each other, from their place to yours. Or, buy an antenna and a single router can span a distance of several miles!
To build one of these yourself, you would need to get a wifi-router – like those available through Amazon (here), a solar panel and battery (an old car battery could work) and of course a wireless receiver on your computer receive the signal.
You will ideally want a router so can function as a mesh network (a mesh network allows your access point to connect to more than one network at a time, which means that it can connect to the source of the internet connection, as well as to the network it is providing the connection to). The advantage of this is that your can then share the wireless connection to many people. From your off-grid, wirelessly connected palace, you can now share the connection further to the old codger who lives further off-grid than you or even a whole community living off-grid.
There are already communities, off-grid and otherwise, who are using mesh technology to provide low cost internet connections, some of whom have combined it with solar power for reliability and scalability. The Champaign-Urbana group is just one example and they are happy to share the experience and technologies they have developed.