San Jose Gives Free Wi-Fi Another Try

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The city of San Jose intends to offer high-speed Wi-Fi throughout its downtown area, with the network paying for itself by making city workers more productive.

The California city, which has a population of about 1 million, plans to deploy Wi-Fi across a 1.5-square-mile area by the end of the summer. But the network will look very different from ones envisioned several years ago.

San Jose and other cities once had ambitious plans to blanket outdoor areas with Wi-Fi; they expected the networks to pay for themselves by generating revenue through home broadband subscriptions, browser-based advertising or small-business network use. But those plans faltered because their complicated business models depended on assumptions that often proved unfounded.

San Jose's current plan is simpler. The network will cost about $94,000 to buy and set up, and then about $22,000 per year to run and maintain, according to the city's acting CIO, Vijay Sammeta. The system will offer improved connectivity for municipal employees and satellite fire stations . It will also provide better connections for wireless parking meters, and for signs that guide drivers to garages using real-time information about the number of spaces available, Sammeta said.

The network will also offer a way for people downtown to stay connected outdoors and in shops and restaurants. One hope is that it will generate foot traffic for small businesses by enticing office workers to venture outside of their buildings.

The public-facing part of the network will be open; people won't have to sign in or provide a password to use it. The municipal network will be secured.

Systems integrator SmartWave Technologies will set up the network using 802.11n gear from Ruckus Wireless. The new equipment will replace a series of hotspots that the city set up with MetroFi in 2004.

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on

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