Portland’s high-cost of “free” Wi-Fi

The Northwest Nonsense:

Free, Free, Free”¦.Step right up folks”¦its More free stuff from Government. Listen”¦anytime folks like Tom Potter and Eric Sten offer something “free””¦remember, it’s not true. These snake oil salesmen have cut a deal that’s good for city hall and bad for consumers. The “free” deal means city hall will pay 16-million bucks of your tax money to Metro Fi incorporated.

In exchange”¦Metro Fi will spend ten million building a network. Let’s do the math on that. Then remember that city hall has put you at the mercy of the advertisements Metro Fi will sell to make even more money. Or you can pony up 20 bucks a month for service without the ads”¦but service that even the city admits will be slower than the what cable and DSL already offer.

What’s the likelihood of a competing service being offered when metro fi is already giving it away “free”? don’t hold your breath. And part of the use will be to service those crazy solar powered parking meters”¦just think about your credit card info floating around cyberspace on a wifi signal. Summing it up”¦16 million in taxpayer funds to buy “free” wifi that’s slower than what you already have”¦and likely to eliminate marketplace competition that always pushes better service at a lower cost.

Lars Larson is Oregon’s own omnipresent radio host who can be heard around teh nation and on the web at www.larslarson.com.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to LinkedIn Post to Reddit

Posted by at 07:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 11 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Mrf

    So the City is putting $16 million of taxpayer dollars to slow down our internet and help block private entrepreneurs from offering anything better?

  • As a member of the tech boom generation and an avid geek, having instant access to wifi all over the city sounds like a good idea, well sort of. Then I remember that open source groups have been doing this for years. A local group by the name of personal telco has been working towards the goal of free wifi in cities for far longer than the city itself has even been pondering the idea. Also personal-telco is more of “wouldn’t it be cool if” group rather than having a profit motive so no pesky ads for me. However a few months ago a new idea was shared. The FON group a small Spanish startup got some major funding from some of the same investors behind google and skype. This plan has three basic forms of service. A Linus user (As in Linus Torvalds) these users share their wifi network in exchange for using others for free. A Bill User (As in Bill Gates) These users charge for their spots and pay for others. The final group is the Alien users who don’t operate their own networks put pay to use others. This is a far better solution than the cities feeble solution. Also remember that this is not the cities first swing at this type of idea. The assisted in funding the “Beige box” project which involved an antenna atop the PSU Ondine building and it directionally broadcast internet over the river into the east side. Reviews of that project have been mixed at best. My solution, keep the city out and let private entities like personal telco and FON do the job for us. The FON idea is particularly interesting.

  • David Sullivan

    Well Maybe Some Of Your Favoriten “Private” Businesses Like The Government Monopolies Qwest and Comcast will have some cometition and since they are all Government Protected Maybe the Playing Field will be level:}

  • Don Smith

    As I understand the current plan, the City is ponying up cash not to install the system or maintain it, but as a client of Metro-Fi’s. We’re not really subsidizing the installation per se, but rather Metro-Fi is guaranteed to have a big enough client to justify the cost of installing and running the network.

    Personal Telco is nice and all, but they are coffe-shop only, not really a Wi-MAX solution. Granted, we don’t know what Metro-Fi is installing, but if it truly covers all of Portland, it would seem that anyone who currently uses dialup would kick $20 a month to get ISDN speeds, even if it is slower than cable, which is $50 a month. Or they could use it for free with the ads.

    Network security is a big question, though. Hopefully, CoP’s link is password protected and encrypted.

    As long as the City doesn’t pony up cash to buy the system if/when Metro-Fi goes out of business or decides the maintnence is too high and closes down, I don’t see how this is a bad thing. Metro-Fi isn’t a public entity, so there’s no PERS. This prevents the City from hiring their own employees to run such a project, which they invariably would, since it sounds cool.

    Lars, you may want to look at the bright side of this project. Fewer government employees, one step closer to the city privatizing their services. If it’s successful, we could argue for more of their services to be “yellow-paged.”

    I understand about not having other companies set up competing services, but there’s no disincentive now if the service will be as bad as you say it will be. And if someone can do it better, the city might switch to their service. Now if we can just convince the library to stop buying new-release DVDs and novels for $100s of thousands per year, we might not need that new levy…

  • mmmarvel

    Actually Don, you hit the nail on the head – the ploy is so obvious to me, but many others miss it so I’ll break it down.

    At this point this is a sweetheart deal for Metro-Fi, the city claims that doing it this way they (the city) will save on items like having the parking meters “talk” and other “far-flung” places having communications. Here is what will happen, by the second year or surely the third (when the contract is about to expire) Metro will announce that they can no longer run the system for $16 mill (just over $5 mill a year) that the city will have to come up with more cash for the next contract (or in year 2 – to keep the system running). The city will cry that WIFI has now become a “necessity” and if we didn’t have it we would have to spend scores more to allow the parking meters and the “far flung corners” to communicate, so they will up the ante going to Metro. Add to that, that the city will also pump up the idea that the ‘poor’ have free WIFI with Metro and we certainly wouldn’t want to ‘take it away’ from these folks (yeah, the library is a long walk you know) – so the city will up taxes (or think of new ones) and will pay Metro more money and the price of “free” will continue to increase.

    On the flip side, when I need a map for some ‘far flung’ corner of Portland, I’ll be able to call up Mapquest, all on the Portland taxpayer’s dime, because I don’t live in Portland OR Multnomah county.

  • Anonymous

    i like the idea of the wi-fi. first, i think it is the governments responsibility to provide services to the public that are of a “public good’ nature. i don’t think it’s too far flung to believe internet is now a public good, as much as infratrustucture such as roads, parks, recreation etc. almost everything can be done by internet now – looking up government applications, fees, rules, hours of operation, contact information etc. almost everyone has a computer now, so from a public good perspective, it is a good marriage. and i think it’s a good thing to help those who are poor with somethign like this. again, to get doctors information, transit information, gorvenmental information, etc. yeah, there are libraries, but hours have been cut and not everyone lives 1 block from them. it’s a low cost program that can offer big rewards for the entire public.

    secondly, i think it will help with city functions, such as GPS services – knowing where employees are with the GPS devices on vehicles, using debit/credit cards on parking meters (c’mon, its very convienent when you don’t have change), allowing better connectivity for police and other emergency vehicles that use computers etc. and i think it can provide competition. the cost to get into a market when it comes to utilities is high – think cable and phone service. with competition from this new company having a LARGE client, the other companies will be forced to 1. improve service offered, lower prices since there is now a third competitor, and have better customer service.

    yes, it’s not a sure thing it will work. but i see plenty of up-side to it.

  • John Jagosh

    You are all missing the the most obvious and funny point of this whole thing, the benefit to “lower income” Portlanders. I ask you all, if they can’t afford internet access, do you really think they have a lap top with wireless card or can afford to pony up for a wireless modem for their desktop?

    This doesn’t argue against any of your good points above, but they keep jamming it down our throats as “good for the poor” and we need to call them on that obvious lie first. It could be fun to watch them stammer when this is pointed out.

  • Don Smith

    Heheh. Actually, it’s all these out-of-work creative types who moved here in the last year. They came with a wi-fi Mac notebook, er, Powerbook. They need the wi-fi to cruise Monster.com from their studio apartment.

    There is actually a great discussion of the Metro-Fi deal on BlueOregon on a technical level which is quite illuminating. The left is not in favor of this deal by any stretch unanimously.

  • Brent

    I can’t tell you how many times i’ve driven down historically poor neighborhoods or streets and seen satellites or dishes on the side of homes that have cars on blocks, weeds overgrowing the property, holes in the roof etc… in portland and elsewhere. sometimes even the poor make choices to get new toys or technologies at the expense of even basic goods. But it is a point well taken. while the extreme poor may more likely not have computers, there are a lot of individuals on the line that may.

  • Lee

    From my understanding of City Council action, the $16M upfront money, there is the point to be made that $16M creates a “financing cost” . Where can we get a user of a service to pony up the “cost of the service” before it is rendered? So the cost is not $16M, but the additional $1.2M in financing cost. The city has a habit of forgetting debt service costs.

  • Lisa431

    you idiots cant even spell….go do a spellcheck on that article????

Stay Tuned...

Stay up to date with the latest political news and commentary from Oregon Catalyst through daily email updates:

Prefer another subscription option? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, become a fan on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Twitter Facebook

No Thanks (close this box)