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Portland MetroFi and Coverage

We keep seeing reports of “Metrofi is roughly 30% complete in covering Portland,” but is that really the right number? Even though numerous reports say you should deploy at least 35 nodes per square mile, MetroFi took the low-end number of 25. While I’m not sure who came up with that number considering the gear used, terrain, etc., they still stuck with 25 per square mile. Regardless of what the reasons are, and most will point to cost, the fact remains that you are not going to get your 95% coverage as MetroFi were contracted out to achieve.

We can agree this is not an exact science, but I will say this: telling the media you are ~30% complete in covering the city is incorrect. MetroFi only deployed ~550 nodes throughout Portland, and Portland is 134 square miles (less major parks like Forest Park). If you do the math, even by using their deployment number of 25 per square mile, that’s only 16.4% coverage. Meanwhile, at what “experts” have suggested (35/mile), that’s only 11.7%.

Even though nobody seems aware on what they’re basing the coverage on, and what areas are considered “Portland” and “worth covering”, it’s nowhere near 30% complete. The MANY complaints people have mentioned regarding overall usability, and mostly those outside buildings, should not be surprising at all.

Everyone has their own definition of the word “coverage”, but the residents of Portland have a different definition than MetroFi.

Hopefully people can take this opportunity to create community networks in their respective neighborhoods.

Oh and one more thing… Sorry for beating a dead horse!

Personal Telco on YouTube

This is slightly old news, but for those looking for video footage of the group, we have a channel on YouTube now with most of our videos from the past 8 years.

Check us out.

Comment on the 6/16 Oregonian Article

Recently, the Oregonian interviewed me for an article about low and no-cost Internet options in Portland post MetroFi. I appreciate that Mike Rogoway and the Oregonian consider our voice relevant and important to this discussion.

While I appreciate that in the aftermath of a large failure, such as MetroFi’s Portland network, there is a natural tendency to focus on the failure and to be pessimistic about the future, we feel that the Oregonian and the City are overlooking the great potential that still exists in the hands and minds of individual Portlanders willing to get involved and unwire Portland anyway.

Consider this:

There are approximately 2500 wireless access points per square mile in Portland. That’s 100 times the coverage that MetroFi planned to deploy. If only a fraction of these access points were setup as Personal Telco nodes, we could truly “Unwire Portland” overnight, with little-to-no extra expenditure AND no ads. It’s not that hard. We can help.

Though the Oregonian correctly quotes me as saying that there are few good options for individuals who are looking for a cheap or free service provider, this does not mean that no options exist. It’s absolutely possible to get broadband Internet access for very little money if you are willing to cooperate and share with your neighbors. The Personal Telco Project meets every Wednesday, and we’re eager to assist anyone who wants to setup a Community Network.

To be sure, there are still many barriers to Universal Internet Access in Portland, and these need the attention of the public, politicians and businesses. Wireless access is not a panacea, especially not when deployed by a single entity, like MetroFi, and the solution may require significant expenditures on infrastructure. However, these challenges are no excuse for pessimism or defeat in the face of one failed private company. Portland is home to one of the country’s great brain trusts for these issues, the Personal Telco Project. Get involved. Come to a meeting, join our mailing list, and share your connection.

Ask not what free WiFi can do for you, ask what you can do for free WiFi.