San Mateo County will get free wireless internet

Posted by on Sat, September 9, 2006

A vendor has been selected to set up a free wireless Internet service, using wifi, that is supposed to cover San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties and to stretch "west to Half Moon Bay" according to some reports.

The vendor, a partnership of Cisco Systems, IBM, SeaKay and Azulstar—still has to come to agreements with local governments, reports the County Times

At no cost to the cities involved, Metro Connect intends to make its money back through advertisements and through charging user fees for faster connections. The service will be free at one megabyte per second downstream and 50 to 60KB upstream, and is primarily intended to be used outdoors. Indoor use probably will require a wireless signal booster.

Metro Connect also will need to obtain approvals and permits from each city or agency to install the wireless antennae, mostly atop street light poles. The coalition estimates it will be 12 to 18 months before installations are complete, Moura said.


This sounds good, but as the resident cynic I have to wonder whether it’ll actually make it out to the Coastside, and whether stretch “west to Half Moon Bay” according to some reports includes the rest of the Coastside outside of the city, at least up through the northern boundary of Montara.

One other interesting aspect of this is The service will be free at one megabyte per second downstream.  The reason that’s interesting is that Comcast cable internet (when it works… it was down again this morning) currently runs at only 3/4 of that speed downstream.

Comment 2
Mon, September 11, 2006 11:16am
All my comments


I’m sure 1 mega*byte* downstream has to be a typo/error. I’m sure they mean 1Mbps (which is 1 Mega*bit* per second - which is about 128KB(ytes) per second).

1024KB per sec over wireless would indeed be nice. ;->


Comment 3
Tue, September 12, 2006 2:29pm
Leonard Woren
All my comments

Oh.  Darn.  Looking around via Google, it appears that you’re correct, and other newspapers got it right.

I also found this: .  It seems that Pacifica is working on their own to get it done much sooner.

I think that overall, free universal wireless is a good thing, but I have a concern.  We already have an excessive amount of overhead junk (particularly those ugly black canisters from the phone company).  Does anyone know the size of the wireless antennas and the associated equipment and what it all looks like?  I assume this is on the 2.4 GHz band, so the antennas should be very small, but I don’t want to see more garbage like the phone company’s black canisters.

Once this is set up, how will we ever get the utilities undergrounded?  And how will wireless be done in existing underground utility districts, like El Camino south of SR 92, and in Princeton by the Sea, aka “Clipper Ridge”?  (For those who don’t think we should bother with undergrounding, check out how startling the difference in appearance is in those two areas compared to where there are overhead wires.)

I live in Foster City where we currently have free Wi-Fi access. Wireless internet is made possible by the sky extenders found sitting on top of sky lights throughout the city. You can do a Google Image search to get an idea of what the sky extenders look like. They are not very big, but look strange if you don’t know what they are. You can find sky extenders placed strategically throughout the city every block or so.

By placing sky extenders throughout the city on top of light posts, you can provide free wireless internet to any city, including Half Moon Bay. The strongest signals will be found at the locations closest to the sky extender.

As far as performance goes we regularly get 900 kbps or greater. I think that’s very good and sometimes we get better signal than the AT&T Yahoo DSL service. The only problem is that you have to look at the ads, but it’s a small tradeoff.

Steven Quan