Delays make for slow inception of Peninsula Wi-Fi

Local residents hoping to get first crack at a state-of-the-art wireless Internet network destined to blanket the Peninsula will need to cool their heels a little longer.

San Carlos and Palo Alto announced in February that they had signed on to become test cities for Wireless Silicon Valley, a planned network of Wi-Fi access that would extend from Daly City to Gilroy. At that time, officials believed the testing equipment would be up and running within 90 days, but it’s been nearly 120 days, with no installation in sight.

“I think they had some rather aggressive dates, but now they’re being a little more cautious,” said Brian Moura, chairman of the San Mateo County Telecommunications Authority, referring to contractors with Silicon Valley Metro Connect, the company that will provide the wireless service.

The delays come at a time when EarthLink has rescinded plans to bring citywide wireless access to San Francisco, leaving politicians blaming one another for the deal’s disintegration.

While “there was probably some expectation the systems would be up sooner,” Metro Connect officials acknowledge that they have been working behind the scenes to design a system tailored to each city’s users, according to Anne-Marie Fowler, principal at Metro Connect.

“A lot of people are getting Wi-Fi phones, want to try Voice over IP, or they work out of their homes, so they want higher-speed connections,” she said.

Metro Connect is also hoping to create Web portals tailored to each city that offer users an array of links to local amenities and information.

Once it’s operational, the system will offer monthly plans with a variety of bandwidth options, with costs ranging from free to $79.95 per month.

In San Carlos, the wireless network would be launched in a square-mile zone roughly bounded by Holly Street, Industrial Road, Howard Avenue and Alameda de las Pulgas. In Palo Alto, wireless access would be available along parts of University Avenue, as well as city buildings on Hamilton Avenue and parts of El Camino Real.

Those testing zones could be operational by the end of 2007. The original testing phase was scheduled to last 120 days, but now could be as short as 30 days or as long as 90 days, after which the whole regional network would launch, Fowler said.

Meanwhile, attorneys have been working hard to hammer out the legal language in the wireless agreement that has yet to be signed by cities in the San Mateo and Santa Clara County coverage areas, according to SAMCAT attorney Greg Rubens.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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