Portland-based wireless ISP sends out note about terminating its business: The Oregon firm VeriLAN, Inc., has bid on a number of recent metro-scale and larger wireless projects, reaching the final three in the Wireless Silicon Valley RFP process a few weeks ago. But lacking both deep pockets and large-scale installations, the company states that they're halting operations. The firm blames this in part on an inability to attract investment dollars because of "speculative municipal wireless business precedents" that they say are "undermining the economics" of this service. (Follow the link to the rest of the post below for their full note.)
This refers, of course, to MetroFi, which won the contract in VeriLAN's backyard to unwire the city of Portland. MetroFi offers advertising-supported free Internet access with an optional fee-based service that omits ads. Higher levels of service and business services, as well as municipal services, are not ad-supported, however.
VeriLAN might also be referring to the Metro Connect team of Azulstar, Cisco, IBM, and Seakay, which proposed broad amounts of free service in their winning Wireless Silicon Valley bid. Metro Connect is partly sorting out how technology scales, and the vast reserves of Cisco and IBM ensure that the network will be built, no matter what it winds up costing. EarthLink, recall, did not bid on the Silicon Valley RFP because they didn't believe it was financially viable to offer service across a region with a relative paucity of households based on EarthLink's business requirements.
In covering VeriLAN, I was often faced with conflicting information about their plans. A link on their Web site to a locally published article implied that Steve Wozniak, Apple's co-founder, had joined their board, but VeriLAN didn't state a definitive opinion either way. (In email, they said he was on an advisory board, not the board of directors.) The company claimed to be involved in the business of network access provision at conferences, but the event services group was split off some time ago, and the staff of VeriLAN, Inc., was a different group of people.
(Update, June 2007: There's been some confusion about which firm this post refers to: VeriLAN, Inc., was a separately constituted company from VeriLAN Event Services, which is a very active and going concern. The two unfortunately share a unique name, but not incorporation.)
I often had problems confirming details that VeriLAN provided in press releases. Their Digital Cities project was a consortium that they said they were the leaders of. Cisco, listed as a member of the consortium, denied any role in it. VeriLAN said I was talking to the wrong people at Cisco, but that the right people wouldn't talk to me or give me confirmation. (I was talking to Cisco's head of wireless strategy.) But then Pronto Networks told me that they were a member of the consortium, and VeriLAN characterization was accurate as to their role.
What's VeriLAN's legacy? They have a few pilot projects in the Northwest that will need new operators, and a few wireless antennas on roofs in Portland that will need new homes.
The note sent out by VeriLAN:
"After considerable internal debate and analysis brought on by VeriLAN, runner-up finalist status in more than seven municipal wireless infrastructure initiatives, the Board of Directors of VeriLAN, Inc. has decided to wind-down the company. All company staff were notified of the decision in September.
"While VeriLAN's business model and DigitalCities approach is well suited to creating long-term value for all of the communities VeriLAN proposed to serve, speculative municipal wireless business precedents are undermining the economics of this important telecommunications service. VeriLAN shareholders and investors were not prepared to invest in projects where multi-million dollar investments were supported by uncertain or unfounded revenue projections.
"The company, management and investors extend their sincere thanks and gratitude to each of VeriLAN's DigitalCities partners, VeriLAN employees and the broad community of stakeholders that worked judiciously on VeriLAN's behalf."