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Distributed wireless mesh network technology is ready for public deployment in the near future. However, without an incentive system, one should not assume that private self-interested wireless nodes would participate in such a public network and cooperate in the packet forwarding service. This paper studies the use of pricing as an incentive mechanism for stimulating participation and collaboration in public wireless mesh networks. Our focus is on the "economic behavior" of the network nodes-the pricing and purchasing strategies of the access point, wireless relaying nodes, and clients. We use a "game-theoretic approach" to analyze their interactions from one-hop to multihop networks and when the network has an unlimited or limited channel capacity. The important results that we show are that the access point and relaying wireless nodes will adopt a simple yet optimal fixed-rate pricing strategy in a multihop network with an unlimited capacity. However, the access price grows quickly with the hop distance between a client and the access point, which may limit the "scalability" of the wireless mesh network. In case where the network has limited capacity, the optimal strategy for the access point is to vary the access charge and even interrupt service to connecting clients. To this end, we focus on the access point adopting a non-self-enforcing but more practical "fixed-rate noninterrupted service" model and propose an algorithm based on the Markovian decision theory to devise the optimal pricing strategy. Results show that the scalability of a network with limited capacity is upper bounded by one with an unlimited capacity. We believe that this work will shed light on the deployment and pricing issues of distributed public wireless mesh networks.