Broadband by the Beach: Pacifica WiFi


MuniFi’s been getting shelled in the press, mostly because of some under-utilized deployments. That hasn’t deterred cities from taking the plunge, particularly small communities where the investment in the network is modest compared to mega-million dollar projects underway in Philadelphia.

Yesterday, we took a little day trip to the South San Francisco beach town of Pacifica, where Veraloft, Tropos and the City of Pacifica were hosting a launch event for its new network. The wind at the pier was strong enough to garble the execs speeches and we were one of just a handful of spectators who made the trip to watch the weird surfboard fin wireless-cutting display (don’t ask).

Pacifica’s 7-square-mile network will have 270 routers on light poles around the city, and cost around $600,000 to $700,000 to build, according to Veraloft’s CEO Robert Hayes. That’s a pretty small investment compared to the amount many larger cities are willing put in.

The network was freely available at launch for demo purposes, but will eventually cost consumers $19.95 for 1 mbps, $29.95 for 2 mbps, and $39.95 for 3 mbps — not much discount when compared to the price tags on basic DSL and cable connections.

Tropos CEO Ron Sege had the usual dramatic (but always fun) sound bites, that the network was there to “free citizens from the tyranny of the phone company.” Thanks for the liberation.

We checked out the network with a PC laptop and found the speed pretty good, though the network was not available at all the sites we tested. The company is still building the network out says Veraloft’s Hayes and 75% of residents will be in coverage areas to get the 3 mbps offer, while 95% of residents will have access to the 1 mbps.

It is hard to determine if the Pacifica’s network will be popular enough to be a financial success. While free networks like Google’s in Mountain view are likely bringing in a decent amount of users, it seems that rates that are just comparable to DSL and cable might not win over too many customers, especially since Wi-Fi networks tend to perform erratically at times. We’re starting to feel more and more bearish on networks that rely too heavily on residential subscribers.


Bill Fargo

I was surprised when I got free wifi from Pacifica Net in the parking lot at the north Safeway.
It works as well as another network I pay for but being free (why I don’t know) made it better.
This is one defect I’d never report:-)

Andy Abramson

But will it work indoors or will some type of Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) device be needed?

How many floors up will it work?

Most of these networks only work outdoors, hence my nickname for it is “homeless wireless” and since the specs usually call for only the second floor and below of a dwelling to be covered, what happens in a three or four story walk up apartment building? Will the signal get past the first room of the house?

Don’t get me wrong I’m a huge MuniWireless fan, but I just think the current buildouts leave a lot to be desired and are setting a lot of people up for a Great Expectations, Less Than Anticipated Results experience once they realize what the networks don’t do yet.


One reason why this could work (if marketed the right way) – is to appeal beyond the residents of our town. Responding from your BlackBerry is a dead give away but responding from your laptop… people might not suspect your hair is still salty. I have seen many suits trying to sneak a session in down here (including some well known tech reporters) – this might give the needed excuse for a double session day.


Its not the DSL/Cable that I will compare it to. I would rather compare it to EVDO or HSDPA speed and price points (or somewhere in between DSL and 3G offering from wireless carriers) because these networks provide wireless connectivity on the move as opposed to just your home.

If they can provide sustainable 3mbps speeds and hand-offs between access points, I think it is a good service.


$20 for 1mbps is pretty good. What other company offers that with out having to have other services (phone, cable TV, etc).

Maybe in CA, but in WA you can’t get that price.

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