MetroFi: California, Here We Go!


Ladies and gentlemen… I’ve traveled over half our state to be here tonight. I couldn’t get away sooner because my new well was coming in at Coyote Hills and I had to see about it. That well is now flowing at two thousand barrels and it’s paying me an income of five thousand dollars a week. I have two others drilling and I have sixteen producing at Antelope. So, ladies and gentlemen… if I say I’m an oil man you will agree. — There Will Be Blood

MetroFi is hoping to sell all their municipal wireless systems, including their largest system in Portland, Oregon, now about 20% complete. In all, MetroFi had about 30,000 subscribers on its nine networks, which were funded primarily by advertising.

Last fall MetroFi told the city it would stop building the network unless the city bought “anchor tenant” services from them. The city’s contract with MetroFi never included a promise to buy services — and the city isn’t budging.

If MetroFi can’t find a buyer, they have threatened to stop service this June, and will dismantle the system.

Apparently it was no idle threat.

Last week, Foster City officials were told that MetroFi would cut off wireless services June 20. Yesterday, MetroFi sent the following email message to former users in the Sunnyvale area:

It is with great regret that we notify you of our need to discontinue the MetroFi FREE and MetroFi Premium services effective June 20, 2008 in Sunnyvale. It has been our pleasure to be your provider of Internet access and we have appreciated your support.

So that you do not find yourself without access to the Internet, please find another service provider as soon as possible.

The somber letter advised that ex-users check Wi-Fi Free Spot for alternative wi-fi hotspots.

MetroFi’s “free” service was enabled by Microsoft advertising technology, called SideGuide, which ran permanently on the left side of the browser.
Pundits are quick to call ad-funded municipal networks a failure. They say cities need to become “anchor tenants” for municipal wireless services.

But if that’s true, why is the FCC planning to auction off the 2150-2180 GHz band for “free” nationwide wireless services?

To the cable-less box.

The only one who called it correctly (in 2005) was John Dvorak. Related DailyWireless articles include $99 Settop = Free Triple Play?.

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

One thought on “MetroFi: California, Here We Go!

  1. This model was doomed from the start and was a silly idea that set the industry back by 5 years. Investors lost millions of dollars for this. Wi-Fi needed to start off with a low capital expenditure to give it time. It needed realistic techical designs and it needed financial managers that were smart enough to see what a stupid idea it was from the beginning. We will start deploying systems in a few weeks that take that into account, reduce the capex by 90%, and use some intelligence in the RF design. Lets see if it can fly with 1/10 te capex and realistic expectations.

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