Microsoft Releasing Free Wireless Internet in Portland

Microsoft & Google Tech News

Microsoft announced that it is partnering with MetroFi to
implement a free wireless Internet service for Portland Oregon. The new
service will launch by the end of the year at the popular downtown
Pioneer Courthouse Square. The service will expand into the rest of the
city
within two years.

Microsoft is
entering a market made popular by Google’s move to partner with Earthlink to offer free wireless in San Francisco. And AT&T is another company that has some municipal Wi-Fi contracts in the works. Microsoft plans to provide “locally focused” MSN content and advertising through its new service adCenter.

MetroFi CEO Chuck Haas explains “It’s a great alliance…Having either city or neighborhood-level
content…demonstrates the next wave on online advertisement and brings
more value to advertisers and subscribers.”

The new service is expected to eventually provide coverage for 95% of the city.
MetroFi is paying to create and maintain the infrastructure and says the service will be supported by advertising revenue. A $20 per month option will be available for users interested in the ad-free version of the service.

The concept seems solid enough, though exactly how these ads and “locally focused” content get pushed on the customer might be reason for concern. But then again, it’s difficult to argue with free.

*Update* Looks like the network will cost $10 million to implement with skeptics concerned that ad revenue alone won’t be able to support the initial upfront cost.

As for more details on the ads themselves… Users will see an MSN screen each time they connect to the wireless network. The MSN screen will include a local weather forecast, restaurant recommendations, Portland news, and movie show times. After getting past the welcome screen, there will be 1-inch banner ads that will appear across the top of web browsers while users are connected to the wireless service.

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