MetroFi mulls sale and end to muni-WiFi initiatives

The shakeout continues in the muni-WiFi market as MetroFi indicated it is mulling a sale and ending its muni-WiFi initiatives in the nine cities where it operates WiFi networks. Like EarthLink, MetroFi is struggling to make any money on its muni-WiFi initiatives. EarthLink last week pulled out of Philadelphia, the latest in a string of pullouts.

Lucie Poulicakos, MetroFi's vice president of operations, told the Wall Street Journal the company couldn't navigate the budget restrictions of these municipal projects. Like EarthLink, MetroFi struggled with the free and low-cost Internet service aspect of the business. MetroFi's biggest project, Portland, Ore., has stalled because of financial troubles.

Poulicakos said the company has approached the cities it serves, which also include Aurora, Ill.; San Jose, Calif.; and other Silicon Valley towns, with plans to sell their networks to them or another party. If no buyers emerge, the company will shut down the networks in 30 to 60 days. Cities were notified earlier in the week, and were surprised.

MetroFi's business appeared on shaky ground a year ago, when the company said it would  no longer offer free public WiFi in newly contracted cities that won't commit to minimum municipal service purchases.

She also said MetroFi, based in Mountain View, Calif., is considering options for itself, including a sale to a larger company.

For more about MetroFi's muni-WiFi struggles:
- check out this article from The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)