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Statement to Network Surveyors
Date: March 29, 2007
Topic: Unofficial evaluation/report by Personal Telco Project, re: the two-square mile Proof of Concept, municipal Wi-Fi network that MetroFi designed, built and operates for the City of Portland (Oregon)
Comment: As part of our contract with the City of Portland, MetroFi built a state-of-the-art Proof of Concept network over two square miles of downtown Portland, in advance of a city-wide deployment that will cover approximately 95% of the city. When completed, the network will offer the convenience and mobility of almost anywhere/anytime Internet access to Portland's residents and local businesses. This municipal wireless network is also designed to help the City of Portland improve productivity for mobile city workers and city services.
To evaluate the Proof of Concept network, the City of Portland selected an independent firm, Uptown Services instead of Personal Telco Project, which also submitted a bid in response to a city RFP (request for proposal). Municipal wireless is still in its infancy, and there are few qualified experts in this new area of city-wide network assessment, which is significantly more complex than local hotspot testing. MetroFi respects the City's vendor choice, and awaits the results of Uptown Services' impartial evaluation within the next few weeks.
Personal Telco's own unofficial testing effort is clearly not independent or impartial, and we can only presume that it's driven by their perception that we are a competitor in their local hotspot deployment project. We don't view Personal Telco as a competitor, but rather as a partner who can offer indoor coverage in locations where perhaps we can't and can also offer Portland residents an additional option for free Wi-Fi access a great outcome for Portland's residents.
In the meantime, the current MetroFi coverage area continues to attract more and more Portland users every day, and total usage has tripled since its launch in December 2006. This week, MetroFi launched a new local network portal, www.MetroFiPortland.com, where residents can learn about coverage updates, network information and customer stories. We are also looking forward to turning on the hundreds of additional Wi-Fi access points that have been installed in Portland, but await the completion of the Proof of Concept testing and the City's issuance of the Certificate of Acceptance.
It seems Denise Graab discredits Senior's and Philip's ability to gather and plot wireless data. This is something we and the open source community have taught others to do quite easily for a number of years. Obviously, the fact that they are installing "city-wide" wireless, it's still 802.11, something that actually quite a few people _do_ understand. This technology is nothing new at all, nor are the tools necessary for a survey. But again, MetroFi and others will view the results as unofficial/unprofessional because of the association of Russell and Caleb with Personal Telco. If it was officially Personal Telco that conducted these findings, why we even consider gathering false data and/or giving skewed results? What would be the benefit? There has been software available for a few years now that do this type of work extremely well. Just because they chose free/open software, and two men decided to take on this task (also for free), and any other bogus reason, does not mean their results should be dismissed. Russell and Caleb are just taking the tools and knowledge they gained from the group and the entire wireless community to do what they know how to do. This is essentially the main goal of Personal Telco. I, and plenty others in the group, gather wireless network data to test out locations, hardware setups, range and reliability. Russell and Caleb have been the most active in this specific arena _before_ all of this muni-wifi buzz hit Portland.
As been stated time and time again, there is NO competition between MetroFi and Personal Telco. How could there possibly be? A number of _volunteers_ over the years have just used the hotspot avenue to keep members in the group busy as well as to attract a sense of community through only the means of using www.personaltelco.net as the SSID. It also seems there is a serious amount of confusion as to what Personal Telco really is. People, especially some journalists (you'd think they'd have it figured out by now), need to understand it's essentially a community that teaches others about wireless; inspires them to write software and build hardware that's related to wireless; dropping some of these creations into cafes and other businesses; installing neighborhood networks (i.e., Arbor Lodge Park, Mississippi Historical District), and, of course, having fun in the process. <gasp>
Wow! Dear Denise.
> To evaluate the Proof of Concept network, the City of Portland selected an BR > independent firm, Uptown Services instead of Personal Telco Project, which BR > also submitted a bid in response to a city RFP (request for proposal). BR
PTP didn't submit this, and I haven't seen a single article that said they did. Two PTP members did it, and they presented their findings at the most logical venue in Portland, a meeting of wireless enthusiasts.
> Municipal wireless is still in its infancy, and there are few qualified BR > experts in this new area of city-wide network assessment, which is BR > significantly more complex than local hotspot testing. MetroFi respects BR > the City's vendor choice, and awaits the results of Uptown Services' impartial BR > evaluation within the next few weeks. BR
Based on the recent Uptown whitepaper, many city-wide networks are suffering from similar service problems to those described by early users of the MetroFi Portland deployment. Will you continue to cast aspersions about the qualifications of those who test the network if Uptown also finds that 95% is a pipe-dream? The fact is, Caleb and Russell are quite qualified to test what they tested. They presented excellent methodology, which, as one wireless equipment vendor and integrator on many municipal deployments stated, was more thorough than much "expert" testing.
You might be a little more kind to PTP, since it was this groups efforts, and the efforts of sister groups, long before MetroFi was even an idea, that spurred so many cities to even consider the idea of unwiring. Many people in our tech community, and especially those working with wireless networking, continue to look upon Personal Telco and it's membership as very well educated, experienced experts on wireless technology. It's a shame that outsiders choose to invent a vendetta in order to discredit individuals who have given hundreds of hours of their time to help Portlanders learn about, deploy and enjoy wireless networking. Caleb and Russell have illustrated with clear, scientific methods, what most residents in the MetroFi POC footprint have already noticed.
Once again, MetroFi is more interested in telling Portlanders how we're wrong, than in hearing our criticisms, and admitting when we're right.
Oh boy... I don't comment on this list much, but MetroFi's comments really struck a nerve...
>Municipal wireless is still in its infancy,
Define infancy? Heck, how long ago was Richochet doing their 900Mhz muni-wireless service (poor service, but still service).
>and there are few qualified experts in this new area of city-wide network assessment,
How hard is it to see whether or not the service performs as expected? As promised to the citizens of Portland? It shouldn't take an expensive consultant to figure out if one can reach an access point in the pre-determined test area!
>which is significantly more complex than local hotspot testing.
How so? You either can A) connect and B) pass traffic OR you can't! If you gave Joe MetroFi user some money and a giftcard to <insert favorite coffee shop here> and map of all the MetroFi access points and asked him to report back how many he could connect to - I wonder what his results would be??? Maybe that the networks isn't living up to the hype from MetroFi?
MetroFi is acting like a little bully who makes up for his inabilities by making someone else look worse...
If I were City of Portland I would boot their rawhide out of town just for making that statement... --ScottBrown
Dear Ms Graab:
In its March 29th media statement, MetroFi said:
- Personal Telco's own unofficial testing effort is clearly not independent or impartial, and we can only presume that it's driven by their perception that we are a competitor in their local hotspot deployment project.
"Not independent or partial"? This casts aspersions on the work of some good folks and avoids the real issues.
According to the Oregonian, Senior and Phillips randomly chose 78 locations within 1000 feet of a MetroFi antenna, and could only connect to 32 of them. They randomly chose 39 spots within 500 feet of an antenna, and could connect to 20 of them.
Unless you're suggesting that Senior and Phillips are not accurately describing what they saw, or used substandard equipment to attempt the connections, or somehow interfered with their equipment's ability to connect, the results seem to speak for themselves. Whether Senior and Phillips were feeling partial or impartial as they conducted their tests is not particularly relevant.
To succeed, MetroFi must treat community reports like this the way a good software company treats a bug report: as a contribution towards improving the service, not as an attack to be handled as a PR problem.
- "Our Portland network is 20% complete with nearly 70 new outdoor access points turned on in May 2007. Seventeen neighborhoods now have areas of coverage, with preliminary deployment begun in 14 more. Utilization is also on the rise: there were over 11,000 individual users in May -- a 40% increase from April."
Where do they come up with these numbers, exactly? Users who associated to the AccessPoint, got an IP address via DHCP or clicked on their splash page? Typically, this information should be thrown out as it's extremely unreliable until they have the decency to explain where and how they gather this data.
Glenn Fleishman has the same take:
"MetroFi coincidentally (or not) released usage numbers for Portland for June: 13,000 unique registered users, 150,000 hours, 96,000 sessions. I’d like them to be fully transparent and release statistics about session churn: how many users connect, send very little data, lose a connection, re-connect, and so on. I’m sure they gather that data."
Welcome to the sales department!
[http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11873020 NPR report says that Portland, Ore.’s anecdotally isn’t working that well]
[http://bojack.org/2007/07/how_does_portlands_free_wifi_s.html How does Portland's "free" wi-fi stink?]
[http://www.ask-steve.com/archives/how_the_city_of_portland_sold_out_and_dropped_the_ball_on_free_wifi.html How the City of Portland sold out and dropped the ball on free wi-fi]
[http://bojack.org/2007/07/more_metrofi_mediocrity.html More MetroFi mediocrity]
[http://www.dailywireless.org/2007/07/12/metrofi-negative-coverage/ MetroFi is Crap]
[http://www.wweek.com/wwire/?p=7518 Portland Wi-Fi Sucks Inside and Out, says independent evaluation]
[http://www.urbanhonking.com/scn/archives/2007/06/does_metrofi_wo.html Is Portland MetroFi broken?]
- "Is anyone having a better experience with this service than I am? I would be curious to hear."
[http://www.portlandtribune.com/news/story.php?story_id=116915490259067400 City's Wi-Fi dreams aren't quite reality]
[http://pdxpipeline.wordpress.com/2007/07/02/opb-dicovers-that-metrofi-is-crap-unless-you-are-kristian-foden-vencil/ OPB discovers that Metrofi is crap unless you are Kristian Foden-Vencil]
[http://www.pe.com/localnews/inland/stories/PE_News_Local_C_cwifi11.408b5b8.html Free wireless plan in Corona falls apart]
"Lou Pelosi, MetroFi's vice president of marketing for municipal and business services, said the company's business model and the industry as a whole have evolved. MetroFi gradually has moved away from offering 100 percent ad- and subscription-supported wireless access, he said."
[http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_6369205?nclick_check=1 Anchorage cancels Wi-Fi deal with Mountain View's MetroFi]
[http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/anchorage/story/9131573p-9047641c.html Free Wi-Fi plan comes apart]
[http://www.mobile-tech-today.com/story.xhtml?story_id=020000P5LCPW Cities Struggle with Wireless Internet]
[http://www.wired.com/gadgets/wireless/news/2007/07/wifi_interference Got Interference? Data-Crowding Problems Loom for Wi-Fi]
[http://www.wifinetnews.com/archives/007750.html Toledo, Ohio’s mayor has backed away from Wi-Fi plan]
Batavia, Geneva, and St. Charles, Illinois
[http://www.wifinetnews.com/archives/007525.html MetroFi changes business model?]
"MetroFi is now requiring that cities in which it provides free, ad-supported Wi-Fi access to residents and visitors agree to a minimum service buy as part of the contract, van Haaften said. The firm previously had language in the contract that expressed more of a statement of intent that cities would buy wireless services, but didn’t require them. “We’re making that a stronger part of our RFP requirement,” van Haaften said. “We still build the network for free, but there is a requirement that there is a certain amount of services bought by from us by city departments.”"
[http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/beaconnews/news/318576,2_1_AU29_WIFI_S1.article Free Wi-Fi plans pulled in Tri-Cities]
"Business model change: Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles cannot get same Internet service offered by MetroFi in Aurora"