A new survey of wireless service in Portland has gotten the Rogue Desk's attention.
The analysis deals with MetroFi, the company that City Council chose in April 2006 to bring free wireless Internet access to Portland. MetroFi promised then that its network would be 95 percent complete in a year or two.
We've reported on major snags in that timetable (see "Unwired and Unloved," WW, Aug. 29, 2007), though the city remains confident that the 95 percent figure will at least be achieved by the end of 2008. But now, even the lagging results so far may be overstated, according to a survey conducted by Russell Senior.
Senior spent 35 hours locating and checking each of MetroFi's 677 access points in Portland to test whether the free wireless Internet is as accessible as MetroFi's status map claims online at www.metrofi.com/cities-16.html. Is Senior just a pissed-off, uninformed consumer? No, he is a principal investigator with Unwire PDX Watch, a project dedicated to testing the availability of Portland's municipal area networks.
Unwire PDX Watch's survey findings reveal a wide disparity between MetroFi's declarations of growth and its online map, which shows 36 more in-service access points in Portland than actually exist. Senior's conclusion from that disparity: The access points only connect about 4.2 percent of the city's area instead of the 29 percent MetroFi CEO Chuck Haas insists online.
MetroFi's vice president of operations, Lucie Poulicakos, calls the map problem small, but says the report was useful and that the company plans corrections in the next few days. The city's point man on wireless, Logan Kleier, says he hasn't had a chance to verify Senior's survey but believes about 20 percent of the city is covered.
Senior said he investigated the city's wireless issue because it "is interesting and fun," but he "wouldn't have bothered if MetroFi was more transparent." Check out the full report at unwirepdx-watch.org.