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DSL Neighborhoods? These Two Start-ups Hope So

With an eye toward increasing download speeds, two West Coast start-ups have manufactured new wireless technologies that enables a group of people in a set location to share a DSL or cable Internet connection.

The start-ups are Mushroom Networks, in San Diego, and WiBoost, in Seattle. They developed their technologies separately, and the results are remarkably similar, promising download speeds of up to 10 times faster than currently available.

Mushroom Networks has produced an access point aggregator, which looks a lot like a conventional home Wi-Fi router but promises “piggyback” potential for connecting homes or businesses that are geographically close together. WiBoost provides its service via an outside antenna that would be mounted on buildings and would allow neighborhood linking in flat areas with minimal obstructions.

“We’re pretty excited about the concept,” said Rene L. Cruz, a University of California computer scientist and founder of Mushroom Networks. “We’re looking for validation and we’re looking for market demand.”

The driving force behind WiBoost’s efforts is the result of studies showing that modern data networks do not come close to using their capacity. Still, James Baker, president of WiBoost, insists that his company is not out to “steal” existing bandwidth.

“We don’t want freeloaders,” Baker said. “We don’t want the perception that it might be something that the ISP might not like.”

Whether the use of such new technologies becomes widespread remains to be seen. For now, they are a fresh new face on a traditional idea.

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