Portland, get the cat5 out!
Tue, 4 Mar 2003 11:41:21 -0500 (EST)
Personal Telco Project gets some props for making Portland wifitown.
Portland connects to top billing for wireless access
Finally, a list Portland tops that we can be proud of . . . sort of.
>From the same folks who bring you Money Magazine's annual "Best Places to
Live in America" survey, this just in:
When it comes to wireless hot spots, Portland is the hottest thing going.
Put another way, Portland is the most "unwired" city in America.
But what does it mean?
In recent years, Portland and other cities competed for the title of
"most-wired" city. But the march of technology has rendered that honor
obsolete. The really with-it tech hot spots now tout their ability to
support wireless access to the Internet.
And in that embryonic world, Portland has more locations per capita than
any other U.S. city where people can use a laptop computer or other
handheld device to tap the Internet via a "Wi-Fi," or wireless fidelity
Not that many people actually do access the Internet wirelessly. But they
could in Portland, thanks largely to grass-roots efforts to provide free
wireless access across the city.
Experts admit that wireless Internet access is still an enthusiast's
technology, one limited to hardware geeks, business travelers toting Wi-Fi
equipped laptops and people who think a telephone keypad is an acceptable
Wi-Fi still faces hurdles to widespread deployment and adoption in the
United States, including security problems, incompatible network standards
and billing issues.
But "Wi-Fi is going to be a big deal in urban life," insists Sean Maloney,
head of the communications group at Intel, which paid for the survey and
is in the midst of a high-profile campaign touting a set of chips designed
to enable laptop computers to access the Internet wirelessly.
Maloney calls Wi-Fi the most revolutionary technology to hit computers
since the Internet browser in the mid-90s.
Market research firm IDC predicts that notebook computers equipped for
wireless Internet access will account for 35 percent of all mobile
computer sales this year, and 96 percent by 2006.
And for the time being at least, Portland is at the top of the wireless
world, according to Bert Sperling, an area resident who is responsible for
a variety of Best Places surveys around the country and who conducted this
study for Intel. Sperling says the city tops San Francisco; Seattle;
Orange County, Calif.; Washington; San Diego; Denver; Boston; Austin,
Texas, and all the other supposed tech centers.
The rankings were actually based on a blended score of the number of
wireless access points available, the percentage of households with
Internet access and the number of wireless phone carriers offering
Portland has 88 Wi-Fi hot spots in hotels, coffee shops and the airport.
That's well behind larger metro areas in absolute terms, but a respectable
showing when it comes to hot spots per 100,000 people.
Where Portland really shines is in its number of public access points --
130 -- where businesses and individuals provide the public with open and
free wireless access to the Internet by allowing wireless access to their
Much of the credit goes to Personal Telco, a group of local computer
hobbyists that has spent two years persuading individuals and businesses
to donate high-speed Internet connections to its cause -- creating a
"cloud" of free wireless access over the Portland area.
Using specially designed "wireless ethernet" cards, Web surfers within a
block or two of the donors' homes or businesses can tap into the signal.
Nigel Ballard, a board member at Personal Telco, said he was pleased with
the results of the survey.
"We're an informed people. We embrace technology," he said. Portland is "a
very viral community where good things and bad things get passed around
And technologywise, "we really do need a shot in the arm."