Microsoft Corp. said it will partner with MetroFi Inc. to build a free wireless Internet service for Oregon's largest city.
MetroFi announced late Tuesday it will launch the Wi-Fi service in Pioneer Courthouse Square, a popular gathering place in downtown Portland, by the end of the year and expand it to the rest of the city within two years.
Microsoft will provide locally focused MSN content and advertising through its new online platform, adCenter. The platform, designed to compete with Google Inc., allows advertisers to target users based on their browsing habits and data such as gender, age and location. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)
"It's a great alliance," said Chuck Haas, CEO and co-founder of MetroFi. "Having either city or neighborhood-level content...demonstrates the next wave on online advertisement and brings more value to advertisers and subscribers."
MetroFi operates Wi-Fi networks in several Silicon Valley cities and has agreements with 13 cities across the United States to develop municipal networks.
Portland already has some free Wi-Fi spots available through the Personal TelCo project, a volunteer group in Portland. The city has been eager to provide a municipal Wi-Fi service for the whole metro area, a trend taking place across the country.
The new system will eventually cover 95 percent of the city.
MetroFi will pay to create and maintain the system. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said the service will be maintained through advertising revenue.
Users can opt for advertising-free service for $20 a month.
Sam Klepper, general manager in the MSN Media Network Group at Microsoft, said the company partnered with MetroFi because it has one of the largest municipal Wi-Fi footprints of any provider. But Microsoft may consider working with other wireless providers and cities in the future.