The city of Houston is testing new parking meters that will take credit cards and use a standard WiFi network connection to verify credit card information, according to a Houston Chronicle report. The city is about to end the test and select one of the participating parking meter vendors. Once that is done, the city will evaluate whether it's feasible to open that WiFi network to the public, said Richard Lewis, Houston's chief technology officer. If the city decides to open up the parking-meter network, by fall downtown could be a big WiFi hot spot, according to Dwight Silverman’s June 28th column in the Houston Chronicle. There are still plenty of details to be worked out, including how and whether WiFi users would pay for access. The city is proceeding despite an ongoing assault by communications companies nationally to block municipal WiFi projects. A federal anti-municipal WiFi bill has been proposed in Congress, but another measure — sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J. — would protect a city's option of considering public networks. A number of US cities, including Philadelphia, are committed to the idea of treating Internet access as a public utility, especially since they won't have to string miles of wire. Philly plans to spend $10 million to deploy wireless Internet service citywide, then offer it for less than $20 a month, according to a June 27 report in the Boston Globe.
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