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Wireless Silicon Valley, the municipal wireless system planned for Silicon Valley and surrounding areas, will use a wider array of technologies than most such projects, reports Computer World.

The network, designed to cover about 1,500 square miles and 2.4 million residents, has strong support in the region and is on schedule for deployment starting this year, said backers.

Organizers have kept their eye on a viable business model, according to Seth Fearey, vice president and chief operating officer at Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network, a regional group backing the project.

The Wireless Silicon Valley Task Force last September chose Silicon Valley Metro Connect, a joint venture of big IT vendors and a nonprofit organization, to build and run the network. Metro Connect brings together Cisco and IBM, along with wireless service provider Azulstar and Seakay, a nonprofit company.

The Metro Connect partners are still working out the exact business model, but some preliminary details came out during panel discussions last week.

As envisioned now, users would be able to choose among five or six services, including free Internet access at 1Mbit/sec. downstream, paid 1Mbit/sec. access with a high level of tech support, service with the same speed both downstream and upstream, a gaming service, and filtered services for children.

Metro Connect would use different networks to serve the region, which includes urban, suburban and rural areas. Urban users could log on to Wi-Fi networks, while those in less dense areas may get WiMax. For city employees and public safety agencies, another network may be included.

Task force members are confident the plan will sail to approval, though the model contract being worked out now would need approval by 40 individual cities, counties and other entities to fill the planned coverage area. No tax dollars can be spent on the project, estimated to cost $100 million, but a portion of revenue will need to come from governments that pay to use the network for their own operations.

“We know they’re going to come. It’s just the challenge of building it,” said Liz Kniss, a Santa Clara County supervisor involved in the project.

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