Santa Clara launches free municipal wi-fi


Free outdoor Wi-Fi becomes a reality for the City of Santa Clara this week, with citywide access launched by Silicon Valley Power (SVP) as part of its SVP MeterConnect program. Santa Clara is the first city in the country to provide free outdoor Wi-Fi access for an entire community as part of an advanced electric meter upgrade program that uses wireless technology to read meters. SVP is the City’s municipal electric utility.

Residents can see information about the new network and learn about access through a website that the city has set up. Users will see the network identifier (SSID) “SVPMeterConnectWiFi” when they log in. SVP expects over 5,000 connections a day.

The network itself will essentially provide two lanes of data, one free, public, and unencrypted outdoor internet service and second, taking electricity and water usage information from soon to be rolled out smart meters, over a highly encrypted network. Security on this part of the system mimics that of banking and national defense institutions. The technology will also spot outages quickly and help customers monitor their own electricity usage.

LinkPath Communications directed the design and installation of the wireless system, and is responsible for customer service and maintenance of Santa Clara Free Wi-Fi.

CivSource has reported on similar network efforts in Chicago, Seattle and other cities  to limited success. However, the presence of such networks is a good sign for broadband advocates.

“This is just one of the major benefits our community will enjoy as a result of our advanced metering technology,” said John Roukema, director of SVP. “Now our residents, visitors and local workforce can get Internet access while waiting for a train, shopping downtown, getting their car washed or relaxing in their yard.”