The (Portland) Oregonian writes about the impending shutdown of MetroFi’s network there: As I reported last week, MetroFi plans to sell or shutdown the nine networks it operates on its own; I don’t have a status on Riverside, Calif., where they act as an AT&T contractor. The Oregonian’s Mike Rogoway notes that the city’s expense includes a $250,000 feasibility study and the cost of a staffer who manages the project. Given the level of usage—the April numbers from MetroFi are 306,000 hours of use and 16,000 users—and despite the reported problems, that wasn’t money wasted in light of citizen benefits. MetroFi wants about $900,000 to sells its nearly 600 SkyPilot nodes. I can’t imagine the city or anyone paying for this, because that would tie the city not just to ongoing expense in operating a network that covers a small part of the city, but to SkyPilot. SkyPilot reported in April that they raised $3.4m for a lifetime total of $70m in financing, but they haven’t talked about new customer wins, deployment status, or units shipped since early 2007 (with one small network exception). It’s unlikely any of MetroFi’s or EarthLink’s cities will purchase the gear on poles because even at bargain-basement prices, the cities would be buying into the engineering assumptions and vendor decisions of firms that decided to exit the business due to a lack of return on investment. Hardly wise.
OpenAirBoston advisor editorializes that slow and steady is the way to figure out muni-Fi: An op-ed by Brian Worobey of the Museum of Science in Boston notes that the local non-profit’s slow pace—accidental, he notes, as it intended to roll out faster—could produce more information and a better result than the many failed all-at-once attempts for deployment. My current line on this is that Wi-Fi’s likely utility in a city is in site-specific, limited area networks designed to solve particular problems. Call it reverse redlining or bridging the digital divide or simply gapfilling, but Wi-Fi could be used effectively and relatively inexpensively as a tool to bring broadband where it is not. But that has to be coupled with goals and plans: what is the point of bringing broadband? Job opportunities? Education? Entertainment? Having these answers would help produce the right kind of network.
MetroFi Plans Market Exit: Sale or Shutter