Minneapolis Wi-Fi signs 10,000 and works well for many

  • Article by: STEVE ALEXANDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 12, 2008 - 11:42 PM

Q&A STEVE ALEXANDER

The Minneapolis Wi-Fi network has reached a new stage: the beginning of normal operations. It has more than 10,000 customers, and as a result is operating at the financial break-even point for the first time, said network operator US Internet of Minnetonka.

Based on the number of complaints that reach my e-mail inbox, the Wi-Fi network seems to be much improved, although some problems remain. About 5 percent of consumers can't get Wi-Fi service because of reception problems, and there is no immediate solution, US Internet said. (This is unrelated to the "black hole" areas of no reception, mainly in the Lake of the Isles-Lowry Hill-Loring Park area, a problem to be fixed later in the year.)

Here are a few recent customer experiences with Wi-Fi:

Jerome Erickson, 32nd Avenue S. and Minnehaha Parkway: He's happy to have replaced his slow dial-up Internet service with Wi-Fi, even though he has a stucco house, which often causes reception problems because of the wire mesh framework. "I'm not very technological, but their guy walked me through the setup over the phone," he said.

Monique Benson, 40th Street and Lyndale Avenue S.: She's had some technical problems, but said US Internet has been "the best customer-service experience I've ever had." Her service degraded when the leaves emerged and while US Internet rearranged antennas to compensate. The company made a free visit to her house to suggest ways she can boost the Wi-Fi signal and reduce radio interference.

Marisela Cueto, 44th Street and 16th Avenue S.: She's satisfied. "I got their Wi-Fi kit in the mail, connected it and it just worked," she said. "Now I can get high-speed Internet service for about $30 a moth."

Nancy Devitt, a youth mentor who lives in Minnetonka, bought Wi-Fi service for a teenager who lives near Upton Avenue N. and Plymouth Avenue. But it didn't work; US Internet said the teen is among consumers who get poor reception, in this case because several stucco homes and trees block the Wi-Fi signal. Devitt, who got a refund, said the Wi-Fi network isn't bridging the digital divide between technology haves and have-nots to the degree the city promised.

Kari and Dan Dahlstrom, Cleveland Street and 32nd Avenue NE.: They dropped the service in July after inconsistent reception. After a free visit, US Internet told them they couldn't receive service because of the number of trees blocking the Wi-Fi signal and some background radio interference. Kari, who was trying to start a home business using the Internet, is frustrated but said the company refunded her money.

E-mail your technology questions to tech@startribune.com or write Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488-0002. Please include a full name, city and telephone number.

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