Residents unhappy with Portland's muni-WiFi

Portland's experiment with universal wireless Internet access was launched with much fanfare late last year, but many residents say the network does not deliver on its promise. The city contracted to have the network cover some 30 blocks east of downtown, but people who live in the area say that access is not available indoors, and also not available in more than a few outdoor locations. Since MetroFi, the contractor that built the network, did not design it to reach indoors, residents are left with no option but to buy a signal booster, at a cost of between $120 to $400, so they can use the free Internet connection.

MetroFi admits that it should have more aggressively advertised the limitations of the system it was building, thus avoiding unrealistic expectations. MetroFi's deal with Portland called for the company to build a network that covers 95 percent of the city by mid-2008, offer free Internet access, provide downloads above 1 Mbps and that is supported by advertising.

MetroFi currently has 68 antennas operating in less than 5 percent of the city. The company plans to activate 230 antennas after the city completes a review of current network performance. MetroFi and the city say that criticism of the network notwithstanding, their records show that the number of monthly users increased from 3,500 in December to 4,700 in February.

For more on Portland's metro-WiFi:
- see Mike Rogoway's OregonLive report

MORE: MetroFi's experience in Portland is not unique, as more and more service providers are finding that fulfilling promises of citywide coverage over the unlicensed spectrum is more difficult than anticipated. SkyPilot sees a market opportunity here, and yesterday it unveiled its SkyAccess DualBand--a new AP the company hopes will help fill gaps in wide-area WiFi networks at a relatively low expense. Richard Martin's InformationWeek report.