The Oregonian - Portland sees wireless as good for businesses

Tom tomwhore at
Tue Sep 16 16:41:30 PDT 2003

>From grassroots to city hall, so whats left for the PTP to do? Oh yea,
there is that "building a cloud" thing and that old "community" thing.



Portland leaders are looking toward an invisible solution for the city's
economic woes.

Heavy-hitters from government and business last week began collaborating to
expand the availability of wireless fidelity, or WiFi, a popular form of
wireless Internet service.

Coordinated by the Portland Development Commission, the Portland
Telecommunications Steering Committee aims to promote Portland as a
tech-friendly downtown by making it easier for companies to lease space on
rooftops and install WiFi access points, which transmit high-speed Internet
connections to nearby computers.

Among the members are Intel, the state's largest private employer and a
developer of WiFi technology; OVP Venture Partners, an area venture capital
firm; and Matrix Networks, a Portland telecommunications provider.

"WiFi is creating a lot of jobs," said Nigel Ballard, director of wireless
at Matrix Networks. "It's selling a lot of hardware. Companies are forming.
We as a committee want to bring publicity to Portland and drive some of the
business this way."

An Intel-commissioned survey released in March ranked Portland the nation's
most unwired city.

"That gets us on the radar screen, and people think about Portland as this
tech-savvy place," said Pete Eggspuehler, senior project coordinator at the
Portland Development Commission. "If we can continue to stay in the press
and get those types of accolades, that gets people to stop remembering the
Doonesbury education cartoons."

Much of Portland's early WiFi success came from the efforts of Personal
Telco, a nonprofit that offers free WiFi donated by Portland-area homes and
businesses. City leaders say this steering committee hopes to increase the
availability of free access and maintain its status as most unwired.

"Unless we get moving on something, we're going to be behind," said Marshall
Runkel, an aide to Portland City Commissioner Erik Sten who is working with
the committee.

The committee hopes to start by making it easier for WiFi service providers
to place access points on buildings owned by the Portland and Multnomah
County governments.

The committee would ask that the companies provide basic WiFi service to the
public for free, Runkel said. To make money, the companies could charge for
faster speeds.

"In exchange for having access to the rooftops of public buildings for free,
we would ask that WiFi providers provide a tier of service for free for
citizens," Runkel said.

After that phase, the committee hopes to help WiFi carriers easily lease
space on the rooftops of privately owned buildings. The carriers would go
through a single clearinghouse to gain access to the roofs of participating

"One contract would cover all of them," Eggspuehler said. "And the revenue
goes back to the building owners."

City officials say WiFi could attract a wide range of companies - not just
tech businesses - that want to have easy access to the service.

"If a company is thinking about locat ing in downtown Portland, downtown
Dallas and downtown Denver, and downtown Portland is covered by a WiFi
cloud, that gives us a competitive edge," Eggspuehler said.

Jeffrey Kosseff: 503-294-7605; jeffkosseff at

More information about the FoRK mailing list