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Santa Monica's Broadband Services Cast a Wide Net  

By Lookout Staff

May 10, 2011 – The City of Santa Monica's innovative fiber optic network received the latest of its awards for its expanding array of services, this one from the Ash Center at the Harvard Kennedy School.

While tracking and synchonizing the city's traffic and parking systems, the network has also become a source of broadband access for local businesses and commercial properties, even as it provides free wi-fi at a growing number of locations.

This year's Top 25 Innovations in Government Awards singled out Santa Monica's “City Net” for attracting “companies that demand a high tech infrastructure in Southern California.”

It does that by leasing affordable dark fiber and lit services to businesses. Dark fiber – unused fiber optic lines – can be adapted to carry data, voice and video packets at any speed, Chief Information Officer Jory Wolf told the Lookout Monday. Businesses can lease dark fiber to connect locally or around the world, he said.

Lit services are more like the kinds of services people are familiar with in their own homes, he said. A commercial property manager might want to lease lit services that all the businesses in one building can share.

Businesses thinking about moving to Santa Monica can choose their options. The flexibility and lower overhead of the city's broadband services attract them to the city and keep existing businesses happy to stay here, said Wolf.

The city is able to do this because it has such an extensive network already in place to synchronize traffic signals, support security cameras, and operate parking availability signs in the city parking lots, among other uses.

“Dormant” cable is available to share with the business community, Wolf said. And the city can “funnel back” the revenue from leasing broadband to pay for the kind of infrastructure that makes Santa Monica such a desirable play to live and to visit, he said.

Wi-Fi is available at 26 locations– including all city parks, the Third Street Promenade and the Pier – and more are planned, including “hot spots” on Montana Avenue, Main Street, Pico Boulevard and Lincoln Boulevard.

There, smart-phone users will eventually be able to find out when the bus is coming, or where a credit-card operated parking meter is available.

Burbank and Long Beach are already replicating Santa Monica's groundbreaking system and Chicago, Illinois and Calgary, Canada are studying it.

The Innovations in Government Awards is devoted to recognizing and promoting excellence and creativity in the public sector by honoring exemplary models of government innovation.

The Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School is a national non-profit research and development organization based in Washington, DC, representing local governments.

For more information, including the location of Santa Monica's Wi-Fi “hot spots” and how to log on to them, see


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