An errant press release seems to have slipped the news that Azulstar, Cisco, IBM, and Seakay's group--Metro Connect--will unwire Silicon Valley: The effort by the Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network to develop a Wireless Silicon Valley proposal and then find viable vendors appears to have reached the end. Seven companies and consortiums originally responded, and that number was winnowed to three. I predicted from the beginning that this four-firm consortium with two blue-chip tech firms involved would be the only one with the right combination of plans for deployment, technology, social purpose, experience, and financing. Cisco and IBM have a very large number of employees in the region under consideration; IBM specifically noted that they have 7,000 in the Bay Area, and is the second-largest San Jose employer.
The Metro Connect proposal will feature 1 Mbps free service and span 1,500 square miles, encompassing many different municipal entities. Fee-based services will include faster speeds, voice offerings, and video streaming. There are also plans to incorporate WiMax.
There are nearly four dozen cities, mostly in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, and the counties themselves. Fremont and Newark in Alameda County and Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz County are also signed on. Fremont is one of the largest cities by area in California at 92 square miles, just by the way, so it's a significant addition. Other cities may join later. Yesterday, Los Altos and Cupertino said they would join the project.
The participation by cities in this proposal is, however, a bit complicated. San Mateo County's telecom authority (SAMCAT) issued the RFP and has Joint Powers Authority for 18 of the 35 original cities signed on, and there's an intent to create model agreements that each city could then sign off on. However, the addendum to the RFP, issued in June, notes on page 7 that "each city will independently ratify the winning vendor's proposal for their geography and jurisdiction." Also, antenna attachment agreements aren't included as part of the RFP. And the winning vendor needs to work with existing WISPs, not just displace them.
This may be rather complicated, but given the way this was structured, I suspect that most of the approval process will go swimmingly and some percentage of cities will have specific needs, concerns, or objections. The old 80-20 rule, or perhaps 95-5. The details will emerge over what I expect is several months.
While Silicon Valley is often thought of as a high-tech paradise, development centers along highway corridors and city centers. There are plenty of less-populated, less-served, and once-considered-rural areas in this giant region.