San Jose expecting free Wi-Fi

San Jose is taking a large yet predictable step in defending its (self proclaimed) title – “Capital of Silicon Valley.”

It is planning on expanding the city’s free Wi-Fi network throughout much of its downtown area, which will include the convention center, city hall and  portions of San Jose State.

In 2004, San Jose became one of the first large U.S. cities to provide Wi-Fi in select public hotspots, but with the evolution of mobile web devices and apps, people’s expectations of a stronger and further reaching network seems like a basic step.

As John Hartnett of the Irish Innovation center in downtown San Jose told the San Jose Mercury News, “San Jose claims the name ‘Capital of Silicon Valley’. But a basic commodity in the food chain is Wi-Fi — I don’t mean this in a bad way — it doesn’t exist.”

The downtown Wi-Fi project is reported to have an initial upgrade cost of $100,000 and an annual operating cost of $22,000, which is similar to that of the current system.

San Jose hopes the offering of free Wi-Fi will make downtown an even more startup-friendly place. It could also  foster a culture of hanging out in downtown’s cafes, parks and other public spaces.

Unfortunately for San Jose residents, municipal Wi-Fi projects in the United States have a spotty (pun intended) history. Dozens of similar projects have struggled and failed in other cities for a variety of reasons. San Francisco once had grandiose dreams of public Wi-Fi but had to scale back its plans after several hiccups.