MetroFi Gets Money, WiFi's Santa Clara

While much of the news today about MetroFi seemed to focus on their announced plans to raise $9 million, their overall plans, as laid out in the San Francisco Chronicle are a bit more interesting. While they may look like yet another WiFi-based wide area wireless provider, it sounds like they’re doing a few things differently. Most of the article focuses on the economics of offering wide-area WiFi-based broadband in Santa Clara, California (comparing it to Sprint’s fixed wireless and Ricochet’s mobile wireless – both of which were much more expensive to build and maintain for a variety of reasons). However, near the end of the article they sneak in a bit about how MetroFi plans to reach the consumer market. Instead of relying on their own marketing efforts, they’re trying to partner with ISPs themselves. It sounds like they’ve already signed up Earthlink, and it will be interesting to see if they can get any others. There are lots of questions, of course, and they’ll have lots of challenges ahead making this technology really work reliably at a cost-effective rate while also fending off competitors (and new wireless technologies). However, if established internet access providers can use MetroFi or other companies to build out their wireless broadband offerings, it has a better chance of catching on (especially if they offer alternate means of connecting when not in WiFi enabled areas). This definitely fits with Earthlink’s strategy of just piggybacking on other’s networks, but most of the other big ISPs have their own broadband networks to deal with – so it will be interesting to see if MetroFi can get any interest from them.

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