The city of Houston is planning to begin using its parking meters for more than regulating parking and collecting revenue for the city. The first step in the plan is to make the city's parking meters able to be "fed" not by coins, but by the driver's credit card information, with each meter connected to a central system through WiFi in order to verify the creaidt card information. The next step is to turn these WiFi-enabled meters into elements in a city-wide WiFi hotzone. The WiFi parking meter idea is already being tested in the downtwon area, with roll out expected in the fall.
Hoston's CTO said that using this system to spread public WiFi throughout the city would be tricky, as parking meters are not evenly spread all over town. He said the city's been "going to school on this technology for a year and a half," and there has been a benefit to the delay. The costs to create a downtown hotzone have dropped dramatically from an initial estimate of $1 million to $250,000.
Houston's plan will no doubt be contested by the telco incumbents, many of which have been accelerating their effrots to thwart muni-WiFi efforts. SBC has been especially active in these efforts, even persuading a Texas congressman to introduce a bil which would federally ban muni-WiFi. SBC should be worried: Corpus Christi has created a WiFi network in a 24-sq.mi. area which includes its downtown and traffic corridors heading to the airport and Padre Island. The city is planning to offer similar covergae in a 147-sq.mi. area. The project will cost about $5.9 million.
For more in the Houston plan:
- see Dwight Silverman's Houston Chronicle report
ALSO: The state of muni-WiFi in Minneapolis. Report