Santa Clara, CA offers free wifi via electric meters

Residents of Santa Clara, Calif. not only have a new smart meter program but free outdoor Wi-Fi to boot. The city’s non-profit electric municipal utility, Silicon Valley Power (SVP), is taking advantage of connected electric meters by integrating support for a second public unencrypted Wi-Fi channel, allowing the city to blanket the airwaves with free Wi-Fi.

It’s a pretty clever idea, and Santa Clara has the advantage of having a population density high enough to create nearly ubiquitous coverage. The connection won’t be fast – only about 1 megabit per second, according to the report, so don’t plan on streaming HD video from your iPad on free wifi as you walk down the street.