Huh? (Another MetroFi Rant…)

I’m reading through the City document that basicall signs off on continuing to work with MetroFi. And I’m confused.

On page 2, in the paragraph entitled “Throughput” under the heading “Performance Criteria Results” the following curious oxymoronic statement is made.

Uptown Services initial tests showed that 100% of access points (70 of 70) achieved 1 Mbps of downstream connectivity and 99% of access points (69 of 70) achieved 256 Kbps of upstream connectivity. Uptown Services re-tested 6 access points that did not initially achieve 1 Mbps of downstream connectivity and 2 access points that did not achieve 256 Kbps of upstream connectivity. This re-testing demonstrated 5 of 6 access
points achieved 1 Mbps of downstream connectivity and 1 of 2 access points achieved 256 Kbps of upstream connectivity. One access point at 24th and Couch was not able to achieve either 1 Mbps of upstream connectivity or 256 Kbps of downstream connectivity.

Let’s parse that.

1. Initial tests showed 100% of access points tested had 1Mbps of downstream connectivity.
2. Apparently, despite that, there was a need to re-test 6 points that didn’t initially achieve that standard.
3. Then, despite the initial statements that 100% of the test points had the 1 Mbps of downstream connectivity, one ultimately was found never to have achieved that.



1. 69 of 70 points tested had 256 Kbps upstream connectivity.
2. Two points that didn’t were re-tested.
3. Finally, again, 69 of 70 were found to have the 256 Kbps upstream connectivity.

These just don’t make sense. I’d think that the City folk relying upon this sort of document should’ve required some sort of re-write or clarification before they made a decision, because I don’t see how you can read that and come away with any sort of understanding of what’s being said.

And here’s a question: does “throughput” equal “access?” Because the general concensus of my commenters in my various MetroFi rants is that access is spotty at best and, in many cases, non-existent. Or, as I suspect, does “throughput” just measure the capacity of the signal from the beacon?

Another interesting result in the “Availabilty” section:

Based on Uptown Services, City of Portland, and MetroFi data, MetroFi’s network demonstrates an uptime capability in excess of 99%.

Uptown Services extended availability testing showed that MetroFi’s network had a 91% uptime. Given the extremely limited number of access points (one at 4th and Madison) from which Uptown Services was able to test, the standard error for this estimate falls within the 99% uptime figure listed in the RFP.

Huh? They were testing availability from one access point and determining “uptime” from that? Ludicrous. If that’s how they determine success, how would they find failure? I’d think that uptime should be determined by testing a wide range of access points and noting how “up” the entire system is…

I have no dog in this race, except that I’m a citizen who’d like to believe our government is working responsibly to meet the needs of the citizenry and/or the promises of the government. I don’t know that we need city-wide WiFi, but if we’re going to pursue it, we should be damned sure that our investment of money, time, resources, and whatever else is resulting in what’s expected. And if the partners who’ve been selected to meet the objectives aren’t holding up their end of the bargain, action should be taken.

Remember the Water Bureau? I feel like MetroFi is sliding down that path. And the City continues to enable this state-sponsored mediocrity. We may be the City that Works, but we sure aren’t doing it over City Wi-Fi anytime soon.

Anyway, I continue to commend you to the Unwire page, where some non-City and non-MetroFi types are monitoring things. As a disclaimer, the people running that site appear to have a dog in the fight, as many are associated with Personal Telco, but at the same time they are providing accountability in a system where it’s needed. And their “independent” testing reflects more closely on the experience of both myself and the many readers who’ve weighed in on their MetroFi experience, so I’ll be deferring to their test results, which apparently are forthcoming…

6 Comments so far

  1. Caleb (unregistered) on April 16th, 2007 @ 11:47 am

    Thanks Rusty for pointing out some of the problems with the Uptown Executive Summary. Russell and I are both quite dissapointed that the city chose to immediately rubber-stamp a network which has had so many (formal and informal) reports of poor usability without even a day or two to provide an opportunity for public comment. They didn’t even wait until uptown had finished their full report! As it is, the city has just forfeitted any leverage they might have had to have MetroFi fix problems with their network.

    Anyway, I appreciate your skepticism of our motives testing the network (clearly, we are advocates of skepticism in general), but I’d like to personally assure you that our only “dog in the fight” is wanting the city to make a well-researched decision which benefits Portlanders the most. And personally, I’m mostly interested in scientifically modeling the performance of a city-wide mesh network (an interesting and not-much-researched problem).

  2. Rusty (unregistered) on April 16th, 2007 @ 12:42 pm

    Perhaps my skepticism is over-stated. Since the Personal Telco folk have been pretty straight-forward about their methodology, and it’s pretty clear their goal is simply access (not $$$, since the Telco project is essentially aimed at encouraging volunteerism, as far as I can tell), I don’t really see a reason to distrust them at this point, unless someone provides one.

  3. open the pod bay doors (unregistered) on April 17th, 2007 @ 1:16 am

    Problem? What problem? Our report doesn’t reflect any problem. If you keep asking about a problem when our report doesn’t reflect any problem, then we have to conclude that YOU are the problem.

  4. Rusty (unregistered) on April 17th, 2007 @ 8:17 am


  5. William Byrne (unregistered) on April 20th, 2007 @ 9:01 pm

    I am currently a Sunnyvale, CA MetroFi user and historically have not been a fan.

    Sunnyvale like most cities, I assume,rubber stamped the use of MetroFi, after all they get aprox? $35/pole/month.

    Like Many I was anxious to try it out, beginning numerous months ago. So with my then current equipment, I tried my best to access MetroFi’s signal. This process reminded me as a kid in Canada when The USA had TV stations and I would go down town and look in the Window of a Dep’t Store and if I stayed long enough we would maybe get a glimpse of a Wrestler superimposed on the overall snow like static on the TV screen. I kept getting MetroFi newsletters and couldn’t wait for their stupid WiFi adapter du jour that would save MetroFi’s weak Business model. Their adapter recommendatios included Buffalo, Hawings, and numerous others which I tries with dismal results. MetroFi were even responsive and visited my house and eagerly showed me that outdoors their soupedup portable computer was able to get a signal. I installed a streak wave antenna 19db, cut down part of an aopple tree to get better line of site and this didn’t work.
    Finally I installed a sytem in one of Sunnyvale’s top managers, he used it for a few weeks and then ripped it out.

    I gave up. Then I heard of Ruckus and voila, their ingenious electronically dynamically configured antennas pulled in MetroFi’s, feeble signal and allowed me acces to their network.

    For the last week i have had good reception and service, but today, it all came crashing down. Ruckus support tried to help me, and I concluded that MetroFi were having some system issues.

    After accessing their web site i found that they were doing maintenance in Concord ,CA during the same time period I was having problems. This evening, the sytem went back to nromal and am receiving ok again.

    My dilema, IS MetorFi ready for prime Time and do I cut off ATT DSL nnd rely on just MetroFi.

    Also they block Port 25 which they bogusly claim is to filter out spam. In reality it’s to dissallow people like me the use of Internet Explorer to get POP mail, so we have rely on WEB mail browsers which suck.

    ATTT currently charge $29 for much higher througput and MetroFi want $20 to take away the banners and let you pop yahoo mail. Apparently for your $20 more per month, they are willing to forget how they were helping the free users from being inundated with spam, Disingenuous??? I think so.

    I am receiving yahoo pop mail. I don’t think MetroFi knows that Yahoo are using a differrnt POP port number now.

    Someone proposed an analogy that the water company
    runs water to your house and we the users must provide the additional stuff to make it work. Good analogy, but I think the MetroFi water utility didn’t provide enough pressure in their pipes to allow us to get the water.

    i have two electrical engineering degrees, a law degree an MBA and ran my own company for 22 years.
    I say they dessigned their sytem just not to reach the homes and then planned to offer outdoor and indoor upgrades/Serices as valued added products to increase revenues and profits.


  6. Rogério (unregistered) on April 24th, 2007 @ 5:35 am

    Gosh, you people are complaining of a FREE service? The city even receives money for each pole used!

    I dont even know how MetroFi can survive. Installing the MESH network is very expensive. Using Skypilot system, each Extender custs $5000 and can service only around 200 people. (that considering only 10% of garanteed band).

    So a network with 50 extenders providing WiFi custs $250,000 and can serve around 10 thousand people.

    Then you have the costs of bandwidth, which MetroFi doesnt have for free.

    And to worse all that calamitous economic situation, people complain about a FREE service.

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