Free WiFi for Residents and Businesses in Silicon Valley

Dennis Faas's picture

Announced earlier this week, a group of technology companies are planning to provide a vast wireless network that will give the entire Silicon Valley free high-speed Internet access. The free WiFi service will be available as early as next year and will be provided by Silicon Valley Metro Connect: a group that is comprised of IBM, Cisco, SeaKay, and Azulstar. (Source:

Silicon Valley Metro Connect will provide the service for 38 cities in California's San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, and Santa Cruz counties -- an area covering roughly 1,500 square miles. This move takes advantage of the decreasing cost of providing high-speed internet access over radio waves instead of through phone lines or through cable.

The service will allow users to have wireless access at speed up to 1 megabit per second outdoors, which is comparable to broadband phone line speeds. However, in order to have the same speeds indoors, users will have to purchase special equipment (at a cost of $80 to $120) to boost the WiFi signal strength. (Source:

Public Ad-Based Service Includes Options to Upgrade

IBM's Director of Wireless Services, Diana Hage, expects the project to cost between $75 million and $270 million U.S. Hage said that the project was meant to be a public service and is meant to showcase the potential for technology and promote the companies' commercial interests. (Source:

The free service that will be made available to consumers will be supported by ads from companies such as Yahoo. If users would like to eliminate the ads or need access to faster service, Metro Connect will provide packages with speed capabilities up to 1,000 kilobits per second. These upgraded service packages will cost between $14.95 and $59.95 per month. (Source:

Next Steps

The plan is for Metro Connect to meet with stake holding municipalities early next week to iron out details of a model agreement. One time-consuming issue that the consortium of companies may encounter is government red-tape in obtaining permission to post nodes on government property. Since local governments have been involved in this initiative from the get go, Hage has high hopes that the bureaucratic process will be minimal.

Metro Connect is optimistic about the new project, exemplified by Hage's statement that the consortium's vision is "to provide a complimentary overlay wireless network that will enable all residents and visitors to the valley region to have portable access wherever they reside…Our intention is to open up this network to any telco provider that would like to run across the network. We're hoping to use this for innovation, or a test bed to all new services." (Source:

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