SHARING THE INTERNET WEALTH: This map illustrates the different areas of Santa Monica where free wi-fi Internet access is available to the public.  (Map courtesy City of Santa Monica)

SHARING THE INTERNET WEALTH: This map illustrates the different areas of Santa Monica where free wi-fi Internet access is available to the public. (Map courtesy City of Santa Monica)

CITYWIDE — Ever been sitting on Pico Boulevard wishing you could pull your laptop out and get online? Well, you’re in luck.

City Hall added wi-fi to eight of its major thoroughfares this year.

Wilshire, Santa Monica, Pico and Olympic boulevards, as well as Ocean and Colorado avenues, Fourth Street, and Broadway were lit with wi-fi this year, joining the Third Street Promenade, the Santa Monica Pier, and most parks and public buildings, some of which have had free wi-fi since 2008.

The additions were an easy and relatively inexpensive ($213,500) addition thanks to the massive fiber-optic network the city started building in 2005, said Jory Wolf, City Hall’s chief information officer.

“We’re capitalizing off another public asset and adding value,” he said.

Earlier this week, Los Angeles City Council voted to solicit companies for a $3 to $5 billion project (paid for by the selected company) that would provide Internet citywide, according to several media outlets.

About 9,000 people use Santa Monica’s city Wi-fi every day, Wolf said. With the extension of the network into neighborhood areas, some people are using the wi-fi in their homes, he said.

City Hall discourages in-home use, Wolf said, because wi-fi isn’t designed to handle that type of application. He gave the example of on-demand Internet streaming sites like Netflix or Hulu.

“There’s no way they’re going to be able to support Internet TV through our network connection,” he said. “You’re still going to need to get fiber for your home or broadband for your home. We’re not saying we’re going to take the place of them. We don’t want to give people the wrong message, like we’re going to be everything to everybody.”

City wi-fi requires users to sign back in after every hour to allow others on the network but, Wolf said, it’s not generally an issue.

“We really don’t have a problem with capacity,” he said.

The Daily Press walked around the new service areas for an hour but was not able to locate anyone using city wi-fi.

There were, however, lots of people on the Internet, all on their phones. A woman on a bike gazed at her phone. Four people sat on a bench, all four fiddling with their phones. Dozens, perhaps even hundreds of people were using their phones. But none of the phone users that the Daily Press spoke with were using city wi-fi.

One woman said that the city wi-fi never worked on her phone. Another group said it was easier just to connect to their cellular network.

Wolf said that the system is not designed for cell phones, but for laptops and tablets without cell data plans.

He often sees people using wi-fi on the Third Street Promenade or in Tongva Park and, naturally, he asks them about it. Often, he said, they don’t realize that the wi-fi they’re using is provided by City Hall.

City Hall plans to add wi-fi to Ocean Park Boulevard and Main Street soon.

Of Santa Monica’s fiber-optic network, Wolf said: “There is no other city that’s doing what we’re doing.”

 

dave@smdp.com

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