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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Another wet dream bungled

The trouble, in large part, is that the network built by contractor MetroFi Inc. isn't designed to reach inside homes. Most residents have to buy an expensive piece of hardware, a signal booster that can cost more than $120, to sign on to the "free" network.

Both MetroFi and the city now acknowledge they should have done a better job publicizing that limitation before the network was introduced in December.

Score one more triumph for the English Major from Stanford. Forget about running a hot dog stand at the Rose Festival -- would you even send him to the grocery store on an errand for you? "I sent you for milk! This is beef jerky!" "But it's all cow, and it looked cool!"

Read the whole thing here.

Comments (31)

That certainly is a pretty disappointing performance.

Campaign finance, billing computers, public power, the guy has the magic touch.

Wait 'til it goes belly up (which will be soon, given that "tens of users" are flocking to it, which gives it zero advertising cache) and the taxpayers start paying to run it.

Someone described using the WiFi network indoors as comparable to using streetlights to illuminate your home.

Amazing in 3 months you are ready for a crucification. $120.00 for hardware? Hell in 3 months I pay that for a low-grade DSL connection that messes with me every 3 weeks or so. Hell for free WI-FI I'd gladly pay 3 time that amount. WI_FI cost the city nothing...why the bitching?

Portland does have the option of subscribing to a service variation, without ads, to serve city offices.

Anyone know the rate the city would pay for said service? A service that would apparently require a hardware upgrade on the part of the city?

WiFi may have cost the city nothing to this point, but one can see a time down the line where it's going to cost them a chunk annually.

What about the price of the contractual waiver of the defense of violation of the right against unreasonable search and seizure? It is the same MSN on MetroFI and QWest's DSL service.

Jailed Chinese dissident's wife to sue Yahoo for ratting him out

Priceless. MSN has terms that need to be deemed void.

MetroFi has always said that some homes may require a signal booster indoors, and instructions on its Web site direct people to the hardware the company recommends. ..... "Obviously, a lot of folks missed that," he said.

No further comment necessary.

.....if they have a chance to try the service outdoors their reluctance declines.

But of course! That's been the problem all along.

Just so long as it works if you're riding on the tram.

You should be happy Erik's screw-ups are small potatoes. When Sam gets back from the National League of Cities, he will have all kinds of new plans to get $0.05 of Fed money for each $1 worth of light rail.

Amazing in 3 months you are ready for a crucification. $120.00 for hardware? Hell in 3 months I pay that for a low-grade DSL connection that messes with me every 3 weeks or so. Hell for free WI-FI I'd gladly pay 3 time that amount.

Wow. I pay $26/mo for 3Mbit DSL, and in 4 years it has never gone out.
I have friends that pay $50/mo for cable, and it goes out twice a month. Its almost regular.

But I guess the biggest point here is, Sten set this up as a "service" for the masses, for those that cannot afford broadband internet to their home, or cannot get it at all. I guess that isnt the case now...
And its more than the $120...most people with desktop computers will have to buy a $50 wireless card just as a starter. Now they will need to spend another $120 for a booster. I bet most of the "masses" out there Sten was tying to serve arent even using a computer thats worth $170.

A prime example of the lunacy is visible at the place where NE 20th/21st goes over the Banfield. There's a MetroFi pod sitting on top of a street light on the south end of the overpass. If you can't get the signal indoors, for whom is this transmitter? People surfing the 'net from their laptop while sitting on the overpass?

this whole project was pushed by Intel in a big way. people didn't ask for it, the government didn't ask for it, there really wasn't any hard demand for it--it was a project that Intel and the MetroFi folks hoped would a)push hardware sales, b)generate ad and add-on revenue, and c)generate marketing benefit.

what got lost in the shuffle is an innovative, grassroots project with guts and heart that is FREE, growing, and good for small business (not Starbucks):

the simple fact is--the wi-fi was already out there, and growing. corporations just wanted to move in on it and make money.

oh, and--the MetroFi/Intel effort also tries to push small businesses to buy additional hardware to participate.

I'm not so sure about Intel pushing this installation. Intel has it's own homegrown technology for citywide wi-fi called Wi-Max that is a direct competitor to this setup.

The Intel tech is much more expensive and involved than basic wifi, but looks to be much more promising once put in place.

Look for this to be the path the city chooses once MetroFi goes belly up.


not quite, sorry.

(1) Intel didn't invent WiMAX at all--they were only part of the standards body, and expect to profit by providing hardware to wireless devices. WiMAX is just a standard, not a piece of hardware.

(2)Intel's pushing both WiFi and WiMAX; WiMAX is just getting more press because Intel wants to sell more next-gen chips its putting in mobile devices.

(3)the SkyPilot hardware that MetroFi's using has an upgrade path to WiMAX.

(4) the CEO and founder of MetroFi, Chuck Haas, spent most of his career at Intel and maintains close business ties there.

and so on.

I think ecohuman is stretching a bit.

Intel was part of the initial proposal stage, and they have been pushing hard for this stuff, but I don't think it's fair to act as if they are in bed with MetroFi.

Intel benefits from city-wifi because it pushes their Centrino chipset. They also stand to benefit from WiMax, since they have large investments there. If Intel were going to get in bed with a network, I doubt it would be one as low-tech as MetroFi. Intel helped develop the RFP for Portland then moved onto the next city.

I think the RFP may have been the real poison pill. The city's RFP was really about parking meters and other means of using wireless (mostly WiMax) to lower city costs. They put the free for the public bit in there as a bone, but it wasn't the main goal of the document. As a result, the proposals were had to offer outdoor, street level access, which necessarily resulted in a network that isn't optimized for indoor access.

On top of that, there's the issue of making the project sustainable, which probably led to some cost-considerations that may be at fault for the less-than-inspiring performance.

Blaming Sten for having a vision of low/no-cost internet access is easy, but it's really not his fault that this looks like a boondoggle.


fair enough, though i didn't intend to characterize it as "in bed." maybe more like "meeting on weekends at a motel", perhaps.

the free bit in the RFP, to my knowledge, was a strong, fundamental want by the city, not an afterthought.

I don't blame Sten. if it's a boondoggle, I blame the techies on both sides that proposed it and recommended it.

and, as i previously posted, it ignored the hard work and significant success of grassroots efforts to provide free, uncomplicated wi-fi to everyone who wanted it. Intel and the various techno-cronies moved in for one reason--Intel and the others are always on the lookout for markets to monetize.

Steve, Mayor Adams campaigning in DC this week for fed dollars won't begin to pay for Stens screwups. Remember for every fed dollar coming to Portland that is funneled into SoWhat, OHSU gets 50%. This all according to Amendment 8 of the NM Agreement. Just another "gimme" to OHSU to compensate them for their "heavy burden" to build the tram.

the free bit in the RFP, to my knowledge, was a strong, fundamental want by the city, not an afterthought.

As I understand it, you're both right. The "free wifi for everyone" part was an afterthought AND became a strong, fundamental want.

I've been told that the notion of free wi-fi was added in later, but became a critical selling point for passage.

I'm still unclear, though, what the point is of a wi-fi network that only works outdoors -- especially in a city where it rains so damn much.

unclear, though, what the point is

It was all part of the Sten-detta against the private utilities, in this case Comcast. Now the Comcast executives can join the Enron executives in laughing their a*ses off at the rubes from Portland.

Sorry, I dont buy that Intel was behind this. Especially since it is Microsoft that helping MetroFi pay for it. And the Centrino chipset it only one of many wireless chipsets out there.

As for Intel "ignoring the grassroot efforts"..then why didnt the city just latch on to Personaltelco and go from there? The system has already been proven, and there are already over 100 nodes out there.
I think its because Sten had a burr in his ass to "make his own"...that, or they tried to work with Personaltelco and couldnt make a deal. Probably because the city wanted to "run it" and they didnt like that. That, and the fact there is no money to be made.


nobody said Intel was "behind this." I said Intel pushed for it, for (obviously) business reasons, one of which you stated.

the problem is simple: the City didn't need to do ANYTHING. a cost free, grassroots solution was already working fine, and growing.

and as far as I know, the City doesn't just get to "latch on to" anybody they choose. the PTP tried to work with the City once upon a time, but it wasn't interested.

it must be hard for many to grasp that the MetroFi project is the same kind of thing as the Tram--a vanity project to "put Portland on the map." companies play to that vanity, seeking to monetize a new market. Intel and the rest are doing it all over the country.

bottom line: we don't need the project. at all.

And the city staffer who's done nothing but work on it for months is one less cop or teacher we can afford.

Intel was a paid consultant on the committee that eventually developed the RFP. Intel has devoted resources to advising cities across the US on how they could bring in wireless. That's very well documented.

I also don't think this is part of the vendetta against Comcast. If it were, the city would have tried to build the network itself.

Free access was listed in the RFP as a desirable function (a walled-garden was mandated). Parking meters were mandated. Then that fell through, after the deal was inked.

I think this was a problem with the RFP. Free access is a pretty tough business model to sustain (look at Netzero, which now charges for dial-up). By requesting it, they led the bidders (or at least the winner) to make financial considerations that surely impacted their options in terms of hardware selection and deployment, which, most experts agree, led to the problems with the network.

I think it's also total BS when MetroFi says that we Portlanders misunderstood that service wouldn't be available indoors without a booster. I have a comment on Mike Rogoway's blog regarding that point.

the Personal Telco Project was and is working just fine--without a "business model" more complicated than "free."

Intel, Microsoft and the rest wanted to create and monetize a new market. they and the City consciously ignored a working model, because it offered no financial profit to them.

Sten didn't wake up one morning and say "hey, we need a city-wide wi-fi program." the impetus came from outside, then from a desire to do a "cool" and high-visibility project.

it's already failed. people are already offering their DSL and cable wi-fi to neighbors, and the Personal Telco Project continues.

the last thing MetroFi and partners (formal and informal) want is for free, community-based options to exist.

and you're also aware that Intel is one of many lobbying government to make sharing your wi-fi connection with others illegal, right?

Personal Telco is a non-profit with a very different purpose than Metro-Fi. I should know, I'm the Personal Telco volunteer that is quoted in the article that Jack linked to.

Comparing us to Metro Fi as a service provider is a bad comparison. Comparing the technology and network design is one thing, but suggesting that PTP, as it is now, could go out tomorrow and cover the city, even if the city funded it, is a stretch.

I hadn't heard that Intel was working to have wifi-sharing outlawed. Got a source for that one? They've supported PTP in the past, much for the same reason they are pushing muni-wireless I assume. It gives people a reason to buy Centrino.


Now *I'm* confused. I volunteered some on the PTP project myself, but never heard of you. maybe you came around after I left in the earlier days. i'm aware of Intel's participation. Centrino is just one part of their wireless strategy, not the sole reason for pushing wi-fi.

and, as you know, the PTP coverage is growing all the time. it's not going to cover the city soon. neither is MetroFi's offering. that's beside the point.

about comparison: I'm comparing the two to show their glaring difference (one's community based and working, the other is corporate driven and not), not their similarities. so, comparing them seems very reasonable and useful.

as for lobbying to make sharing wi-fi illegal, it's a complex picturewith two main parts. first, Intel's lobbying for a while to fight laws preventing projects like the MetroFi one:

in effect, Intel doesn't want telcos or other providers running the show--they want local governments to do it so they can "advise" and keep several doors open for their technology--including regulatory looseness. in other words--municipal wi-fi bad for service providers, but good for hardware and technology providers.

as to making sharing illegal, i'll go look and try and post later--it's not something that's widely written about.

hope that all made sense. there's a much bigger picture here than seems to be understood.

You may have left before I started attending meetings and the like. Hard for me to say as your name is just a url.

As for Intel lobbying, I can't find fault with them fighting the telco attempts to make muni-wireless illegal. There are many, many cities where it makes decent sense for the municipality to build out a telecommunications network, as they've been neglected by the baby-bells. Considering how much press these issues have gotten, I find it hard to believe that a story about Intel trying to make wifi sharing illegal would be hard to dig up if it were actually occurring.

As for the comparison, it's apples and oranges, and in particular, it's a Navel orange and a Red Delicious apple. The Navel is sweet, tasty and wonderful, the Red Delicious looks good on the shelf but tends to be pithy and unappetizing. That doesn't mean that you should replace it with a Navel, it means that if you want an apple you should go back and get a Fuji or a Braburn (sp?). You, and most of Jack's fans, I sense, prefer oranges or no fruit at all, in which case you'll never find satisfaction in an apple. Fortunately, PTP is here to provide that sweet Navel. It's possible that Unwire Portland could have been that tasty Fuji, right now, in my opinion it isn't.


we're in violent agreement on most everything, i think. on comparing: i totally agree--they're diferent fruits. but, they're both "food".

in this (metaphorical) sense, i prefer oranges over apples whenever possible. projects like this nearly always work better coming from an orange tree than an apple tree. you'll find many in local government who agree.

and i believe--large corporations don't get involved in local governments unless there's a payoff. ever. i've been around enough to experience that.

anyway...that's enough from me on this one. i'll yield the mic back to others now...


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