Cisco, IBM, six others to compete for Peninsula Wi-Fi contract

Eight companies are vying to set up a wireless network blanketing the Peninsula and much of the South Bay, but Earthlink has declined to compete, the San Mateo County Telecom Authority and Joint Venture Silicon Valley announced Tuesday.

A handful of technology companies, including heavyweights Cisco Systems and IBM, are on the list, joining Blue Horizon Group, Community Wireless, Ubiquity Broadband Communications, MetroFi, NextWLAN Corp and VeriLan.

The companies have submitted bids to provide wireless Internet from Daly City to Gilroy, in what stands to become the largest continuous Wi-Fi network in the nation, officials said.

“It’s an interesting position,” said Brian Moura, chairman of the San Mateo County Telecommunications Authority and the San Carlos assistant city manager. “We’ve been extremely lucky.”

Noticeably absent from the bidders, however, is Internet-giant Earthlink. Although the Pasadena-based company expressed interest in the project, it could not work with the requirement that it include a layer of free service, according to Cole Reinwand, Earthlink’s vice-president of product strategy and Marketing.

“If Earthlink were to offer a free service tier, our ability to sell subscription services would be significantly impaired,” Reinwand wrote in a June 26 letter to Moura.

Moura expects the service will help make life easier for small businesses, many of which might not be able to afford broadband Internet.

Users would be able to access the Internet wirelessly using their computers, cellular phones or PDAs from city parks, public buildings and even cars, if stationary. Moura said the estimated cost for setting up the network varied greatly among bidders, but Blue Horizon, according to their RFP, estimates the cost of establishing the network will be approximately $180 million.

SAMCAT hopes to short-list two or three of the bidders by the end of July and award the contract in mid-September, Moura said.

SAMCAT and Joint Venture posted copies of all seven requests for proposals on its Web site Tuesday.Visit www.wirelesssiliconvalley.org or e-mail info@jointventure.org for more information or to make comments.

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