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.

  • Pretty smart idea — a city wide network blanket (remember the promise of WiMAX). 1 megabit is fast enough to disrupt paid text message services such as SMS/MMS on cellular mobile devices which also happen to have WI-FI. A field day for iMessage, Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook Chat. Depending on the amount of deployed access points it might just be fast/dedicated enough to allow voice over IP services which could also cut into Telco revenue.

    I could also see a boom in non-cellular devices like the iPod touch. A lot of parents will love knowing that their children can be reach/tracked all over the city.

  • itsgene

    We had free wi-fi in Santa Clara not too long ago until the company went under. The city bought the infrastructure (cheap!) but it has been sitting around on light poles for years unused. Since the city also owns its own power company, it was a brilliant and efficient idea to use the defunct network for this! It was pretty ridiculously slow when it was up before, so I don’t think anyone will be expecting to Facetime over it.

  • I give it one fiscal quarter before a local cable or telco has its legislature shut that down.

  • lucascott

    We kind of have something like this in areas of LA thanks to the cable services. They even agreed to let each others subscribers connect to all the points. Trouble is that they aren’t one net so if you are on the bus (as I often do since I hitch a ride in an official truck from the studio to save on gas in my car) you literally have to reconnect from point to point (ie every 2-3 blocks) It’s so annoying that I generally don’t bother