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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Opie's legacy: A $60,000 cleanup bill for "free" wi-fi

Remember Erik "Opie" Sten's goofy dream of free municipal wi-fi? He and his Bus kid minions kept telling us, over and over, "This doesn't cost the city anything." All the while, there was a city staff person, Logan Kleier, who spent full time, and then part time, on this bad idea -- one of many spouting from Opie. But in the mind of a genius, it was still free. (This was before he suddenly and mysteriously left town.)

Well, now it turns out that taking the antennas down off city property is going to cost twice or three times what the contractor, a failing outfit known as MetroFi, said it would. And the taxpayers get to pay the shortfall. Go by streetcar!

Of course, this is nothing compared to the cleanup cost on another brilliant Sten idea, the South Waterfront district. Add four zeroes onto the end of the "wi-fi" cleanup numbers for the hit to the taxpayers from that one.

Comments (20)

Sten left Portland? You mean the entire area? Or just the city itself?

However, estimates for pulling the 600 antennae - installed on various streetlights covering about one-fifth of Portland - have run between $60,000 and $90,000.

So that's $100-$150 per antenna. My solution: offer the meth-heads $25 for every antenna they bring in. Problem solved.

I learned a long, long time ago that any time someone pushes the idea of how something "won't cost the city anything," put both hands on your wallet and then staple it to your butt. Whether it's a new stadium or a new bridge, that stupid mantra is always used to get undecided individuals to sign on, and then it ALWAYS costs four to five times what was originally promised.

Oh, and Dave? Great idea. Either that, or promise a new bike lane for every fifty brought in.

Why don't they just leave them there?

Last I heard he was in the Bend-Redmond area.

Don, I suspect it's for liability reasons. Either that, or to prevent precisely the same meth-head plucking nightmare Dave brought up in jest.

It is a mystery why someone so involved in politics suddenly drops out. There must be something there not yet revealed.

I used to live within a line of sight of one of those metro-fi antennae, and I think I successfully connected to the internet maybe 3 times. A complete disaster.

Maybe he's planning to revitalize himself as the savior of Deschutes County.

mk, they worked really well if you were within about 25 feet of it. Oh, and outside, of course.

Seems like they could have tested a few and figured out they sucked before putting them up all over town.

Did the $30,000 performance bond disappear or has it been absorbed into some different color administration fund? Couldn't this task be combined with street light maintenance or does this removal process involve yet another minority bid process?

Thanks, Dave Lister, for the info. I'm gobsmacked. I had no idea he had left the Portland area.

Turn out that those shiny aluminum brackets (see the photos) were biting into the epoxy paint on the street lights, allowing accelerated corrosion to occur. The maintenance bureau complained, but....
So add in some bucks for rusted streetlights. sigh.

I would be interesting to know how much the fully functioning Umatilla County wireless system cost. It works extremely well over a large area.
Portland always thinks it is "cutting edge" but here a rural county (albeit with federal funds) has a working system and the big city doesn't.

here a rural county (albeit with federal funds) has a working system and the big city doesn't.

The "big city" has had one since 2000. Its run by a non-profit called PersonalTelco. Still there. Works just fine.

Oh, and their website says that the city is donating the MetroFi equipment to PersonalTelco. Why take them down then?


PersonalTelco will relocate some and keep some for parts. They do "hot spots" not the entire area, so relocating them makes sense.

Plus, they're mostly on PGE equipment, so they probably need to get them off or PGE will junk them and send the City a bill for removal

The EZ Wireless system in Umatilla (and parts of Morrow) county cost $5 million to build and it costs everyday people $29 a month to subscribe. It runs about 1 Mbps, so it is not as fast as cable, but that is still good enough for most people. It is a wide area system, so you do not have to be near one of those hubs. It covers 700 square miles of the county. Heavier users, like police departments, pay a higher monthly fee and I suppose they get faster download speeds.

I do not know if all the buildings in the city would interfere with a system like this in Portland.

Besides grant $ from the DoD, the development was helped by the fact there was no high speed internet competition.

Still $29 is cheap. I pay Comcast $58 or so.

I wonder if the Umatilla system wasn't subsidized so heavily as part of emergency preparedness purposes (evacuation notices in case of a boo-boo at the Umatilla chemical weapons incinerator).

Jeez, the cans have been up for a couple of years now. I don't think they are going to fall down.

The other day I was downtown and decided to see if I could check my e-mail at Pioneer Square. Up popped a perfectly clear Personal Telco node and I was on. I always wondered why Personal Telco could provide really strong signals in many areas and MetroFi's equipment was weaker than 3.2 beer. Personal Telco is so low-budget, that $60,000 we're spending could have blanketed the town have we given it to them instead of MetroFi.


As I recall (and my memory could be wrong here) the grant from the Defense Department paid for $1 million of the $5 million cost. At $29 a month plus more from commercial and public users, I suspect the revenue stream is strong enough to support such a capital investment post the grant amount.


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