Municipal Wi-Fi sustains fatal blow with likely loss of MetroFi

After scrapping its citywide Wi-Fi deployment project for Portland, Oregon, municipal wireless company MetroFi is planning to liquidate its network assets or close down entirely.

In addition to Portland, MetroFi has free, ad-supported networks in place in Concord, Cupertino, Foster City, Riverside, San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale, California as well as Aurora, Illinois. In a private e-mail from MetroFi CEO Chuck Haas to Wi-Fi Networking News editor Glenn Fleischman, he says if no buyers turn up for these networks, his company will gradually shut them down.

Now, with all of Earthlink's deployments overturned, there is no question that muni-Wi-Fi as it was originally conceived is completely finished. On almost a weekly basis, more reports surface of cities either reclaiming their networks, or shelving future plans for them. Boulder, Colorado is unsteady, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania will not provide funding, and Milpitas, California has taken theirs back and stripped it down. The list is long, and few of the results actually reflect the networks' initially intended purpose.

In all likelihood, with the gradual exit of the bigger muni-Wi-Fi companies, the technology will not disappear altogether, but will settle into niches where it is a cost-effective solution to providing a broader swath of coverage: in small communities, and in public security networks.

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