The Personal Telco Project

Wifi Basics

The Personal Telco Project is a Portland volunteer organization that operates numerous wifi hotspots around town. Look for a wireless network called "www.personaltelco.net" or similar. No payment or password is needed. Wifi available 24/7, even if the venue providing it is closed.


The Personal Telco Project ("PTP") is an all-volunteer group that's been active in Portland since 2000 - quite a long time in internet years!

The group calls hotspots they operate "nodes" and considers any wifi network called "www.personaltelco.net" to be a node. Anybody can set the name of an open wifi network at their home or business to be "www.personaltelco.net", and doing so indicates a desire to share their internet access with others -- a nice thing to do! Sharing your wifi connection brings many benefits to yourself and others. Sharing wifi can save you and others money, enhance privacy, and decrease the amount of time you waste messing around trying to find passwords.

Many Personal Telco nodes run software that keep BitTorrent from being used -- a feature that keeps the network connection from being killed by people who use BitTorrent inappropriately. It also keeps considerate people who use BitTorrent responsibly and apply rate limits from using BitTorrent at all. The BitTorrent restriction doesn't apply to the individual or entity that owns the connection and pays the bills -- they can do whatever they please. PTP's network gurus can disconnect problematic users from the network, for instance if somebody is sending spam. Many Personal Telco nodes also feature a splash page. Each time you connect, you see text telling you to behave on the network, and click a button. This can be irksome if you're using a device such as an ebook reader that goes into wifi power save mode -- you'll see that message each time your device wakes up and tries to access the internet!. Many Personal Telco nodes publicly broadcast that they are working. This allows the group to quickly locate and fix problems, for instance if somebody at a node accidentally switches off the wrong power strip or unplugs the wrong cable. It happens!

pdxwifimap.com grew out of volunteer work I did for PTP. The official map of Personal Telco hotspots, map.personaltelco.net, was long out-of-date. Many hotspots shown on the map no longer existed, because nobody removed hotspots that had gone away. It's time consuming and difficult to go back and verify that wifi hotspots are still working. I wanted to know how many nodes still worked, and made a goal to visit each node in person. When I visited about 60 of the 78 nodes that were initially shown on map.personaltelco.net, ignoring nodes outside of Portland, I found only 44 working hotspots. While map.personaltelco.net displays more hotspots, pdxwifimap.com shows only working hotspots. I'll add more of PTP's Portland hotspots to pdxwifimap.com as time allows.

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Page last updated: May 13, 2014. For news, follow @pdxwifimap on Twitter or visit twitter.com/pdxwifimap