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STREETLIGHTS EVALUATED FOR CITY WI-FI EDISON INVOLVEMENT NEEDED FOR PLAN.

Byline: JUDY O'ROURKE Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA -- The city wants to provide wireless Internet service around town -- which would help residents who cannot afford high-speed service, and would let users surf the net while watching the kids play soccer.

But the plan has stalled because the city does not own the mounting sites: streetlights.

Southern California Edison will not allow the wireless antennas to be hooked up to its light poles until it determines how much power the devices would consume.

``The city is at kind of a standstill waiting on SCE to make a decision about the streetlights,'' said Benny Ives, a technology specialist for the city of Santa Clarita. ``The city's been working for six months to get SCE to come to terms on this deal, but we haven't heard anything from them.''

A Southern California Edison representative said the utility has formed a project team to evaluate the technical suitability and costs associated with attaching Wi-Fi equipment to its streetlights.

``This technology is much-needed, and Edison is looking forward to working with cities to meet their needs with Wi-Fi services,'' said Anna Frutos-Sanchez, the utility's region manager for Santa Clarita, the San Fernando Valley and parts of Ventura County.

The evaluation should be complete in the next few months, she said.

Many other cities served by Edison are awaiting the same answer.

The wireless antennas contain small radios that mesh into a network that communicates with the Internet. Users can connect wire-free with any of the antennas to receive service.

The city owns traffic lights and vanity poles on bridges, but these are too far apart to link the communication network: radios must be 500 to 1,000 feet apart, depending on whether trees interfere with the signal.

Mountain View, Calif.-based MetroFi, the vendor likely to provide the city's Wi-Fi service, operates or is building systems in Santa Clara, Ontario, Corona, San Jose, Portland, Ore., Aurora, Ill. and in the north Dallas area. In some cases, the company pays the city a yearly streetlight fee and a flat rate for power use. In Santa Clarita, MetroFi would sign an agreement with SCE.

``Edison is a little behind other areas in the country in the sense that other utilities have experience in these agreements already and have relationships with companies like MetroFi for deploying citywide Wi-Fi networks,'' said Ben Zifrony, MetroFi's vice president of sales and business development. ``We're on the right track, and they have their own set of issues they're trying to work through. We'd all like it to go faster.''

Ives says the coverage would be a boon to people who subscribe to dial-up service, or who cannot afford DSL (digital subscriber line) or cable Internet service because it would offer free DSL feeds.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co., a Northern California utility, provides electricity for wireless antennas mounted on city-owned streetlights in some cities in the San Francisco area.

``The existing wiring for the streetlights can easily accommodate the additional wattage even with the streetlights fully powered,'' said Paul Moreno, a spokesman for the utility. ``It's not a problem.''

He said the devices' electric use is very low.

Phone and cable companies lease space on PG&E's power poles, for which they pay a tariff. PG&E is exploring with wireless providers how the units could eventually be attached directly to its streetlights.

SCE's Frutos-Sanchez said the utility does not have a tariff in place for customers to be served from the streetlights.

Santa Clarita officials are considering a couple of MetroFi plans. One option would provide free service to users but charges local advertisers to run banner ads. People who are ad- averse could pay MetroFi $20 a month for service that banishes ads. The city would not earn any money from the service.

judy.orourke(at)dailynews.com

(661) 257-5255

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(color) Santa Clarita is attempting to get wireless antennas placed around the city, like hot spots provided at Central Park.

David Crane/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 9, 2006
Words:667
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