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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

February 12, 2007 at 1:34 PM

Portland’s smooth, free WiFi rollout

It took just a few months to get a 2.5-square-mile “proof of concept” network up and providing free, ad-supported Wi-Fi service in Portland, according to an Unstrung report.

The Microsoft-sponsored service went live Dec. 5 and is spreading through the city. It’s designed as a two-tier system with a premium, paid service and a basic, free service that helps bridge the digital divide.

Working in the system’s favor is the falling price of hardware, the story said:

“What we see is the price of a WiFi repeater, now sub-$100, will quickly be sub-$50,” MetroFi Chief Executive Chuck Haas said. “If you fast-forward two years in Portland, there will be 10 times as many WiFi repeaters in homes, businesses, and high-rises, than the number of MetroFi lightpole-mounted devices.”

At that point the dream of free, ubiquitous WiFi coverage will be closer to reality. At least in the Emerald City.

That’s funny, and sad, because Portland’s the Rose City.

The Emerald City is Seattle, which abandoned the concept of free municipal WiFi in favor of an expensive fiber optic system that’s still under review at City Hall.

Comments | Topics: Microsoft, Public policy, Web

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