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What is that thing on the pole at 14th and Republican?

What with park security cams and SPD drones buzzing about, it’s little wonder that we might get paranoid from time to time. Reader Mike writes:

I have attached a photo for a device that has appeared on a telephone pole on between 14th Ave E and 15th Ave E on Republican. The device was not there previously, no one seem to know what the device is, including the Comcast person. I have not seen another device of it’s type anywhere in our neighborhood or in the internet. 

It is some sort of spying device? 

Please take a look at the photo and consider posting it to the blog and see if anyone can explain what it is. 

IF we are being spied on or subject to something the neighborhood has not approved it seems everyone has a right to know. 

Thanks for the note and the picture, Mike. It illustrates a few phenomena of the modern urban existence. We’re told that device is unused, leftover hardware — and, the City says, it’s been there for years.

According to Seattle City Light, the device is an old Metro-tech wireless relay “used for broadband computer networking around 2000 to 2001.” UPDATE: Below, Ben says Metricom — not “Metro-tech.”

“They went out of business so it should be idle,” a City Light spokesperson said. “We have a standing order to remove them when we encounter them while conducting other business on the poles.”

Our search of teh Internets turns up nothing about any “Metro-tech” or “Metro Tech” or “Metrotech” in Seattle. Last we checked, the device was still in place. We’d suggest installing more aluminum foil over your windows in the meantime.

UPDATE: In comments, Ben turns up a more likely explanation for anybody who doesn’t buy that this type of device has been on utility poles since 2001:

This is likely smart meter reader. This is used for reading utility meters and likely other things.

The PDF lists a few other things that that hardware can do which would be to read utility meters, provide DAS support… which looks to be related to public safety sorts of things.

We’ll check back with City Light on this one.


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16 thoughts on “What is that thing on the pole at 14th and Republican?

  1. We have one outside my window at 14th & Pine. I KNOW it was added in the last year or so. When they put it there I walked out on my 3rd floor balcony and asked the workers in the bucket what it was. I wish my memory were better. But I do know it’s in use and not obsolete or they wouldn’t have added it so recently.

  2. Former Telecom analyst/reporter here. The spokesperson had the company name wrong – it’s Metricom, not Metrotech.

    Metricom had a high-speed (for the time) wireless network called Ricochet that failed rather miserably. Paul Allen and MCI/Worldcom were the main backers. The company went bankrupt in 2001.

  3. Homeland Security has been installing devices on light poles throughout downtown, though they don’t look at all like this device.

    Just sayin…..

  4. the funny thing is that I’d LOVE a service like that now. There’s a couple outfits that DO high speed wi-fi and wired service in neighborhoods, but they command a lot of customers to make the investment to set it up.

    2001, eh? Damn dot-gone era. :(

  5. That is the housing for a 1 W 900 MHz FHSS encrypted radio modem.

    No way to know what is actually inside or what three letter agency is operating it, if any.

    I have seen FBI surveillance cameras up on poles in the hood and they are bigger and have warning stickers on them not to fuck with them.

  6. This is a common cross-band radio repeater. You can tell it’s cross band (transmit and receive on different bands) because the top antennas are shorter and have fewer coils than the bottom one. From the look of it, it’s likely anywhere between 800MHz and microwave which means it could be used for just about anything.

    There are hundreds of repeaters for many different uses all over the city and they are nothing to be afraid of. All they do is pickup local signals and repeat them with greater power so they can be picked up elsewhere. Clearwire has dozens of them on poles throughout the neighborhood, but they don’t usually look like the one pictured.

    I know it’s human nature to be afraid of what you don’t know, so feel free to stock up on tin foil. However, keep in mind that foil only improves mind control waves! Haven’t you ever used foil on old TV rabbit ears to make the picture come in better? ;)

  7. The device looks *exactly* like the one pictured in the PDF on smart meter reader equipment. Is it possible that SCL is using exactly the same type of enclosure and antennas today (in other neighborhoods, as they claim) as Metricom was using a decade ago?

  8. Please note Bax’ comment above, “Homeland Security has been installing devices on light poles throughout downtown.” That pseudonymous and unsubstantiated report is enough to leave anyone uncomfortable. Where DHS appears, constitutional violations follow.

  9. So it’s not SCL equipment but don’t they know who is on their poles? Looks like the same pole in July 2011 didn’t have the equipment,-122.314482&spn=0.003646,0.006539&t=h&z=18&layer=c&cbll=47.623115,-122.31424&panoid=UZkfeFIL6qcRoqntWWmuQA&cbp=12,66.72,,0,-26.9