Up in Portland, Oregon the citizens there are facing a situation that I believe other cities soon will encounter. The city fathers had contracted with a silicon valley company to setup free Wi-Fi access for all its citizens. So far, so good. The free Wi-Fi would be supported by advertisement. Is this starting to sound familiar to you? But lo and behold, the company goes belly up during the project.

So now the city of Portland has some 600 Wi-Fi antennas atop their traffic signals and street lights that the original contractors says they would remove. But so far there they sit. Lovely, expensive bird nests doing nothing. In the article it explains that:

When contractor MetroFi Inc. announced plans to shut off the network in June, it promised to take down all the antennas by the end of July. They’re still up, though, and the city is starting to worry that Portland taxpayers may have to pick up the tab to dismantle them. 

The free, ad-supported network didn’t meet MetroFi’s financial projections, prompting the Silicon Valley company to turn off Portland’s network and a handful of similar projects in smaller cities.

“They’re struggling financially,” said Logan Kleier, the city staffer assigned to work with MetroFi. “That raises questions about their ability to complete remaining tasks.”

MetroFi has shut down its Web site. The company’s phones still work, but it didn’t return calls seeking comment Friday.

The antennas might have some salvage value — MetroFi tried selling some on eBay last month for more than $500 each — but with the fervor for municipal Wi-Fi over, there may not be any market for the equipment.

What once was being hailed as a grand experiment, ad supported Wi-Fi appears to have gone down in flames in many cities where it was attempted. To bad. There was so much potential to see the project fail as it has.

Comments welcome.

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