Plans afoot for 35-city Bay Area wireless network

SAN CARLOS — A consortium of cities including most of Silicon Valley and parts of the East Bay is moving forward with plans for what is expected to be one of the world’s largest continuous wireless Internet networks.

Service to more than 35 cities and counties from Daly City to Santa Cruz to Newark is scheduled to be put out to bid by the Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network in conjunction with the San Mateo County Telecommunications Authority, or SAMCAT, today.

“I think this is a pretty big milestone,” said Brian Moura, assistant city manager for San Carlos and chairman of SAMCAT. Officials expect the interest from bidding companies — including the likes of Google, Yahoo!, Comcast, Earthlink and America Online — could be fierce.

“It’s certainly one of the top five largest WiFi networks,” Moura said, citing other large networks in Rhode Island and Taiwan.

“I’d like to have access outside, at a bar or in my car,” said Mike, who had stopped off at Starbucks in Millbrae to check his e-mail by tapping into the café’s service.

As a traveling pharmaceutical salesman, he regularly uses wireless Internet service to keep up on the news and stay in contact with clients, said Mike, who declined to give his last name.

The 80-page proposal lays out a five-tiered system ranging from free basic services at a slower speed, a faster, fee-based outdoor service to indoor access for the public, officials said.

Government employees such as building inspectors and police are also interested in accessing the network though secure portals, officials said.

“So what we’re saying to the vendors [in the bid proposal] is that in the perfect world, they will offer all of these,” Moura said. “But it is more likely that each vendor will offer parts of that and the bid will be the measure stick for who can deliver the best service.”

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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