This morning, I went down to San Jose to conduct a panel on Broadband Video at the Building Blocks/Digital Hollywood conference. After finishing the panel, I decided to duck out for a quick nicotine fix, and a cup of coffee. Sitting outside the Tech Museum Cafe in Downtown San Jose, I decided to fire up the browser and catch up with the world at large.
Being an eternal broadband optimist, not for a minute did I think that I just might not have access. Apparently, broadband gods were listening. My MacBook Pro instantly found an MetroFi network, and within seconds I was redirected to a MetroFi login screen, with a handful of advertisements on the splash screen. In order to log into the network, all I had to do was just type in an email address – you could just make one up – and in less than 30 seconds was connected.
The connection was rock solid, and while not blazing fast, it was as fast if not more than the connection speeds one normally gets at T-Mobile HotSpots. Not bad, since it it is free! A big 768 x 60 banner took over the top part of my browser, but not in an annonying pop-up sort of a way. I was able to make Skype and Gizmo-based VoIP calls, without much problems. The biggest issue was with email, when my SMTP server refused to send out email.
A little tweaking would have done the trick, but since I was in a bit of a rush, I decided to use the webmail interface. The signal was strong enough for my Nokia E61 device, which after some fiddling with the browser and WLAN settings picked up the signal nice and clear. Of course, it wasn’t quite useful since my email client is married to the EDGE connection and VoIP is still MIA on the device.
If San Jose Network is any indication, then MetroFi’s chances as a municipal access provider are pretty good. The company has city of Portland, Oregon under its belt, and it has been actively bidding to build networks in other cities.
The Mountain View, California-based MetroFi has teamed up with AT&T to build and operate networks in different cities as well. (MetroFi needs to develop a decent advertising-based business. The ads on the San Jose Network’s landing page, well they are just not enough. )
GoogleFi and MetroFi networks are ‘Live’ examples of municipal wireless networks. There are challenges, yes, but there are live networks which show that if you build them…. they just might actually show up. Like I did!