Government in San Jose , California, has what any government would want; money and power. It can collect taxes, print money at will, place citizens under house arrest or detain them indefinitely without charge via the Patriot Act. Now it wants to control the internet too.
The City Council announced in July that it wanted input from residents on proposed city-run fiber optic broadband as part of a “smart city” initiative . San Jose was one of 34 cities chosen last year by the federal Department of Transportation’s Urban Consortium to become a smart city – this is code for an Orwellian surveillance society where every car, phone and computer monitor is connected to allow “big data collection.”
San Jose already installed 1,000 such cameras with funds from a $2 million Department of Homeland Security grant. The city has now hired consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) to study how to go about creating a city-run internet service provider that will allow government officials the same kind of 24/7 access to private data, conversations and financial transactions that AT&T and Comcast enjoy.
The project is expected to cost $1 billion or more if it’s like Google Fiber or the one being built in San Francisco by Webpass. A 1,000 megabyte file can be downloaded from the Internet in 30 seconds with 1 gigabit per second speed , but both these projects require running fiber optic cable throughout the City . It’s costly work requiring underground boring machines and sophisticated electronics; all done at taxpayers’ expense of course. San Jose has no plans to deploy fiber cables itself.
“We’re still in very early days as far as talking about what it would look like, but I do think Internet access is a fundamental part of 21st century infrastructure and I’d like for San Jose to be at the forefront of that,” said city councilman Sam Liccardo. “I’m convinced that we could bring an Internet utility to market much sooner than other communities.”
The City Council approved (6-1) hiring PWC by July 15th , giving them $225,000 on top of $200,000 already paid for initial feasibility studies. It’s unknown how many more taxpayer dollars will be handed over to this global consulting firm .
“This proposed ‘broadband over power lines’ service is one option that could provide Internet access more quickly than other approaches (city fiber, city Wi-Fi, etc.)” states the City Council’s agenda item. “The City has met with Choozle and it seems like a good fit for a pilot project.”
Choozle LLC is a startup located just down the street from San Jose City Hall. Government documents show other meetings took place with this company in May , June and July . Choozle’s wireless internet technology uses power lines to connect homes and businesses to the Web. With over $10 million in credit facilities arranged by Silicon Valley Bank , this small Santa Clara company offers “connected home” devices that can be controlled via the internet.
“Choozle operates a software as a service (SaaS) platform that serves utilities and their customers to enable engagement, management of data/analytics and delivery of applications,” states the company’s website . “Our technology enables your business transformation by providing next generation communication services for utilities, such as Smart Meters and asset management tools.”