Cupertino citywide Wi-Fi for $19.95 per month

If you live in Cupertino, California, you may want to check out MetroFi‘s $19.95 a month wireless broadband service. It is available in 75% of the city (15,000 households). For $19.95, residents get 1 Mbps downstream and 256 Kbps upstream. This price includes rental of a wireless modem, which provides better range than devices one can get at big box retailers such as Best Buy. It also has built-in security.

Business model: no frills broadband provider and open-access wholesaler

MetroFi, unlike many wireless ISPs, provides “no frills” broadband access and at the same time sells access to ISPs at wholesale prices. According to Chuck Haas, co-founder and CEO of MetroFi, the $19.95 offering is a “no frills” service which means that they do not provide you with an email address, spam blockers and all that. So,if you are happy with your existing ISP (say, MSN), you can move to MetroFi without having to cancel your MSN email accounts. The $19.95 per month service is less than half of what Comcast is charging in the area (between $40-$45 per month) although Comcast promises download speeds of up to 3 Mbps. As you can see, MetroFi appeals to customers who don’t want to pay too much for broadband and don’t want to switch ISPs.

In addition to providing no frills broadband access to end users, MetroFi also wholesales access to ISPs such as Earthlink. An enhanced MetroFi service is available from EarthLink for $24.95 a month for the first six months. This premium service features EarthLink TotalAccess® software, which includes EarthLink spamBlocker, Pop-Up Blocker, Virus Blocker and Spyware Blocker.

Details about the network

MetroFi is using Skypilot equipment for backhaul (802.11a directional antennas) with MetroFi’s own integrated mesh hardware (802.11b). In addition, they have installed over 100 ValuePoint access points that deliver the wireless signal to subscribers’ homes. They also use service resource management software from Granite Systems (acquired by Telcordia) to manage the network.

MetroFi has spent approximately $5 million on engineering, software, developing their architecture, and automating processes — all the necessary elements that would allow them to “scale”, that is, to deploy this kind of network in different cities as cost efficiently as possible.

Something for municipalities?

Providers such as MetroFi, with “no frills” broadband service plus a wholesale/open access model, could be just the kind of partner that municipalities may want to consider if they are thinking of bringing citywide wireless broadband to their residents. By partnering a MetroFi-like provider, a municipality would not need to build and run the citywide wireless network; it also would not have to give one ISP a monopoly over wireless Internet access, which is happening in a few cities. MetroFi’s model ensures that there will be more than ONE wireless ISP delivering service to end users, thereby creating more competition in the market for broadband services. Partnering with a MetroFi-like company would also allow the city to get around anti-municipal broadband laws.

Indeed, the MetroFi model resembles Philadelphia’s wholesale access model where an entity (in Philadelphia’s case, a non-profit organization) owns the network but allows a number of ISPs to deliver Internet access to end users.


If you live in Cupertino and have tried out the MetroFi service, let me know what you think.


Posted by: Philip Underwood on 17 June 2005

I live in Cupertino and have had the MetroFi service in my home for almost one month. It is great! Easy to install, fast, FAST. I have one home network with another subnetwork hanging on the service – all runs beautifully. One hicup when the PG&E power went out. Otherwise perfect. I have already cancelled my extra phone line.



  1. Walter Brezinski says

    Do you have connection to my location
    23000 Cristo Rey Drive in Cupertino ?
    Many thanks.