In Santa Clara, a city in California's Silicon Valley, the municipal electric utility is upgrading to smart meters for businesses and residents. The benefit is that these advanced electric meters will make it easier for the utility to read the meters and customers to track electricity and water use. But thanks to wireless technology used in the smart meters, the upgrade will bring another benefit to the city: free Wi-Fi.
As part of the utility's SVP MeterConnect program, a separate channel on the new wireless equipment used in the smart meters is set aside to provide free, outdoor Wi-Fi for the entire community, making it the first city in the United States to provide citywide access to free Wi-Fi.
“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 Silicon Valley Power, in a statement. “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.”
Free Wi-Fi isn't just seen as a luxury to offer residents. It's also seen as a tool for tech hubs, like Silicon Valley and New York City, to bolster their tech reputation and attract more businesses to their city. As Silicon Valley Business Journal points out, this announcement comes just weeks after neighboring San Jose launched the fastest public Wi-Fi services in the United States, but it's limited to the city's downtown. Other cities, like New York, have talked about a desire to have citywide Wi-Fi, but for now their free Wi-Fi is limited to its Chelsea neighborhood, thanks to Google.