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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 15, 2007 9:49 PM. The previous post in this blog was High-rise condo-mania heads south. The next post in this blog is I'd resubscribe to the O.... Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

More MetroFi mediocrity

A reader writes:

Today, while walking toward Powell's downtown, I saw a large truck slowly cruising along NW Couch, painted with ads for MetroFi and with a huge flat-screen TV on the side with ads playing. There are just so many things wrong with this: the traffic congestion in an already busy area, the pollution (hopefully the truck runs on biodiesel), the ugly ads, the big animations distracting drivers in areas with high pedestrian traffic, and the fact that they have to do so much selling of this service which, if it had been done right, would have caught on through word of mouth just like the Personal Telco Project's nodes did. And aren't most of those things explicitly on the city's list of things they want to eliminate?
Yeah, Opie, what's the deal? Give old MetroFi a call -- tell them this ain't San Jose.

Better call quick, though. Pretty soon they'll be call-forwarding to Redmond, Washington...

Comments (20)

It turns out that MetroFi is just another commercial ISP with a junky product and a gimmick -- the latter being "free" universal wi-fi. Of course, that was more or less a lie.

In Portland, an additional selling point was that the city's new parking meter contraptions (another procurement gem) could use the wi-fi and avoid making costly cell phone calls every time some parking patron spends a dollar. That, too, was wishful thinking at best.

I can hardly even begin to count the number of free high quality wi-fi nodes left on overnight in our city, at various coffee shops, youth hostels, etc. When I want to take a break and catch up with email at work on a slow night, I never even have to think about that crappy MetroFi service...

The one time i actually used MetroFI, i didn't think it was all that bad.

The fact that the parking meters don't work with the wi-fi really bothers me. This is something that everyone should have known. It needs to be looked into why this happened.

As far as the service goes. To tell you the truth i rarely am in a place that doesn't already have some type of Free Wi-Fi. The one time i was, it was nice to use MetroFi, and did everything I needed. The ads didn't bother me much. I wasn't impressed, but it wasn't bad.

Every time I've fired up a laptop to get online metrofi has had the weakest signals. I haven't been able to test it out because it's simply awash in a sea of other easily accessible public access points...

simply awash in a sea of other easily accessible public access points...

Exactly. Why bother trying and trying to get a good signal when there are plenty of far better options ? I'm speaking of outside here, too, in terms of signal strength. What a chore it must be to get this to work inside your house...

And when you pay to sit and eat in the coffee shop or whatever, the shop's signal strength is even better.

Our tax dollars, hard at work, providing a service that is redundant.

As I understand it, MetroFi works just fine indoors - if you purchase a signal-booster for around $120. Such a deal! Free wifi for all!

Wait a minute. When I used to wait for the bus at SW Broadway and Washington, I could never get a password-free wi-fi on my PDA. Now I have no trouble connecting to free MetroFi; of course they have an antenna on the traffic light there.

This is a new implementation; I think we should give it some time to get the bugs out before we decide how good the service is.

You know, weighed against the cost of broadband from Comcast (at least 30 per month or $360 per year), or the alternatives, including dial-up, a flat $120 for a signal booster so you can have SOME connectivity is not such a bad deal.

There is *lots* of wifi already deployed in Portland. MetroFi plans on installing approximately 25 access points per square mile. They may end up going as high as 40 per square mile to try to improve coverage. For comparison, based on data I collected last summer and fall, the square mile centered on my home (and it is not unusual) contains about 2500 access points. They mostly consist of indoor consumer-grade equipment, but the ratio is 100 to 1. A Skypilot (the brand of access point used by MetroFi) is not 100 times better.

If a modest fraction of the owners of those 2500 access points decided they wanted to share their bandwidth (as some are already doing), good public access could be established overnight.

If a modest fraction of the owners of those 2500 access points decided they wanted to share their bandwidth (as some are already doing), good public access could be established overnight.

exactly. this is what i'd like to see--a guerilla effort to educate access point owners (a brochure on the doorstep?), doing an end-around Metro-Fi and the Comcast/ATT folks who are apoplectic at the though of sharing.

for a few hundred thousand dollars (or less), the City could've funded and promoted this effort.

the "Comcast/ATT folks who are apopleptic about sharing" would be violating the TOS if they were sharing their connections with neighbors. (ISP Wireless Policies @ Personal Telco), so the city could never have been involved in such an effort without significant legal risk. I realize that this probably falls under the whole "stick it to the Man" ethos of the comments section here.....

You know, weighed against the cost of broadband from Comcast (at least 30 per month or $360 per year), or the alternatives, including dial-up, a flat $120 for a signal booster so you can have SOME connectivity is not such a bad deal.

But thats not how they sold it...they said it was "broadband for the masses"...and it was going to help all the poor people who couldnt afford internet access. I would suspect that for all those "poor" who were duped by this, $120 for additional hardware is a big deal. Particularly because for most of those people the $120 signal booster probably costs more than their computer is worth.

I like my DSL at only $26/mo. And has never gone out in 5 years.

And if I need free access, I will just use one of the half-dozen routers available in my neighborhood that people have left unprotected...


the "Comcast/ATT folks who are apopleptic about sharing" would be violating the TOS if they were sharing their connections with neighbors.

sorry, no. also, i meant the companies were apoplectic, not the consumers.

Personal Telco is being safe (and their web site will tell you they're not quoting lawyers), because nobody's able to decide on what "sharing" means. service providers are having a devil of a time enforcing it--and mostly, they don't and can't.

if it were enforceable and enforced, i doubt there'd be any local businesses sharing their connection--which hundreds do.

there are myriad ways to "share" Internet connections--too many to explain here.

Who is behind Linksys? It seems to be available in about half the places I try to connect...Never protected.

Who is behind Linksys? It seems to be available in about half the places I try to connect...Never protected.

I cant tell if you are being facetious, but...
I have a Linksys router at home, and the default name is "Linksys", with no password. So most likely you are seeing routers in someone's home that they left unprotected.
If they want to share, thats fine. But they should understand that people can use their bandwidth for illegal things too, such as downloading music or movies, and the one that gets in legal trouble is the person on record with the ISP.

I wonder how MetroFi would handle things like that?

Personal Telco is being safe (and their web site will tell you they're not quoting lawyers), because nobody's able to decide on what "sharing" means. service providers are having a devil of a time enforcing it--and mostly, they don't and can't.

It's simply untrue that there is debate over the meaning of sharing. Most prohibitive Terms of Service I have read make it quite clear what sharing is, and that it isn't allowed. Whether they enforce this or not, isn't something you or I can judge. Certainly, enforcement would be challenging, but that does not make it impossible.

Personal Telco recommends that people use one of the many ISPs that do allow sharing. These are usually local businesses, many of whom have supported Personal Telco by donating bandwidth to one or more of our high-profile nodes. Unfortunately, these ISPs only provide DSL and WiMax service, so the areas of Portland that are only served by cable do not have that option, so long as Comcast has and anti-sharing ToS.

this is what i'd like to see--a guerilla effort to educate access point owners (a brochure on the doorstep?), doing an end-around Metro-Fi and the Comcast/ATT folks who are apoplectic at the though of sharing.

This is exactly the attitude that prompts people to come to Personal Telco meetings and become involved. It's great to get recognition on the blogs, but even better to have someone meet you face-to-face and say, "How can I help?"

I'd encourage you, ecohuman, and anyone else posting here, to come to a Personal Telco meeting. They happen every Wednesday, with large, formal gatherings on the last Wednesday of every month at 6pm at the Urban Grind (2214 NE Oregon St.) and less formal weekly meetings all other weeks. To find out about those, please join our mailing list or check our website!

t's simply untrue that there is debate over the meaning of sharing

Michael, despite your background on the matter, i disagree with you. ISPs nationwide have created a wide variety of TOSes; Comcast has went to court over the matter (and lost, due to the very issue of the vagueness of "sharing"); if this weren't being debated, providers would've put the fear of god into "sharers" long before this by winning court cases. they haven't--for this very reason.

i'd encourage you, Michael, to do some homework yourself. posting several links here in comments doesn't seem to work so well for me. i'm actually surprised you're not aware of this.

Personal Telco recommends that people use one of the many ISPs that do allow sharing.

i'm saying it's not even an issue of "allows" versus "disallows". ISPs have tried (and repeatedly failed) to take legal action against those leaving their routers unsecured, intentionally or not. this can also be verified with a brief bit of research.

by the way, i've been a fan of the PTP since its inception. keep up the good work.

ecohuman:

There is no question that there are a variety of TOSes; however, some plainly state that sharing is not allowed, and the fact that they have been willing to go to court to enforce it, should provide some incentive to go with an ISP that does allow it, thereby avoiding the hassle altogether.

By supporting those who explicitly allow sharing, you make it a selling point and encourage other ISPs to do so.

As a side note, almost all of the controversy I've heard over secured/unsecured wireless has to do with filesharing, and accusations that by providing the open internet connection, the subscriber has enabled any file downloading that takes place over that connection. This has nothing to do with the ISP's ToS. I'm not familiar with the legal actions you're referring to, and I wasn't able to find them with a google search.

Given your support of PTP, we'd love it if you came and helped us!

Jon said:

"I like my DSL at only $26/mo. And has never gone out in 5 years."

>>>> What service do you have for this price? I'm interested, as I still have dail-up. Thanks.

Nick

Nick, I have Verizon 3Mbit DSL. And BTW, its actually $29, not $26. My mistake.


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