17 Aug 2021

The man bringing free wifi to the people of Sanson

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:42 pm on 17 August 2021

Residents of the small Manawatu village of Sanson can now jump on free wifi thanks to local man Brynn Neilson.

woman on mobile phone

Photo: freestocks / Unsplash

Brynn Neilson

Brynn Neilson Photo: brynux.com

During lockdown last year, Brynn had the idea of sharing data from his business wifi connection with members of the public out for a walk.

"I printed out a couple of labels, put them on my window and sellotaped some antennas to the windows."

He was surprised how many people jumped on via their phones as they were walking down the street so he put an antenna up on his roof so the signal could reach 100 metres away.

When even more people got on, he got his mate to forklift him up to the roof of his furniture store to put an antenna up there.

Now the wifi signal reaches his local playground and parents can connect.

Lots of people in Sanson can't afford the internet and this allows them everyday use.

So people don't abuse the connection, Brynn has the restricted speed to 2MB, which is enough to watch YouTube but not enough to watch Netflix, he says. The connection is also turned off between 12pm and 5am.

Brynn says the service doesn't cost him any extra in data - he needs a bunch for his internet company Spinning Planet. As it's a business internet connection, he's allowed to share data as cafes do.

He moved to Sanson five years ago and loves the community spirit of the town.

Everyone chips in, everyone waves at you on the street and it's a bit like living in New Zealand in the 1970s, he says.

"If you want to live in a nice safe community where everyone gets on and helps each other, everybody has to play their part."

Brynn will continue to manage Sanson Free WiFi but it will soon become a community-run project.

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