California city launches free public WiFi to all residents

Brian Sin - Mar 27, 2013, 7:09 pm CDT
California city launches free public WiFi to all residents

This week, Santa Clara broke some new ground by blanketing its entire city with free public WiFi. The public WiFi network spans across 19 square miles, covering the 118,000 residents that live in the city. The free public WiFi network is part of an electric meter upgrade program provided by the city’s utility provider, Silicon Valley Power. The new “smart” meters allow the company to wirelessly retrieve electricity and water usage data from homes, while also allowing its employees to connect while they’re out on the field.

John Roukema, the Director of Silicon Valley Power, stated, “This is just one of the major benefits our community will enjoy as a result of our advanced metering technology.” Silicon Valley Power expects there to be over 5,000 connections to its public WiFi network a day. However, because users will be accessing an unencrypted WiFi network, they are encouraged to browse with extreme caution, and have a firewall and antivirus installed on their devices.

Santa Clara’s free public WiFi is a positive step forward for the city and will provide great convenience for its residents. Santa Clara’s WiFi network is aimed more at casual internet browsing rather than data-intensive services such as online gaming and HD video streaming because users will be limited to speeds of about 1Mbps.

Many other Bay Area cities are also working on providing free public WiFi for its residents. Earlier this month, San Jose announced that it will be launching free, high-speed public WiFi for its entire downtown area. San Jose is working together with Ruckus Wireless Inc. to provide free public WiFi to specific locations in its city. Because San Jose, like many other cities, already has fiber-optic cables installed throughout its city, the cost of creating a free wireless network isn’t too expensive. Vijay Sammeta, San Jose’s Chief Information Officer, stated that San Jose’s network only cost about $100,000 to install and $20,000 to maintain annually.

[via The Wall Street Journal]

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