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Google to Offer Free Wireless Service to City of San Francisco

Service May be Available by End of Year

"Virtually everyone" in the City of San Francisco will have access to free wireless service provided by Google and Earthlink, according to a deal that has been backed by City mayor Gavin Newsom (pictured). The project, which still needs to be approved by the Board of Supervisors, may be complete as soon as the end of the year.

Newsom's friendship with Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, which included trips in private planes (reimbursed at business travel rates), has been widely reported in San Francisco in recent weeks.

Google is headquartered in the small Silicon Valley city of Mountain View about 40 miles south of San Francisco itself. But that's a local distinction that's of little importance, as San Francisco has long been viewed as a technology capital on its own merts, is still the most prominent (if not the largest) city in what is still known as the San Francisco Bay Area, and Google is one of the better known major technology companies in the region.

In any case, the decision was not made by Newsom alone, but also based on a recommendation by a panel that included members of San Francisco's Public Utilities Commission and an outside consultant based in the state of Georgia.

The deal "is intended to boost The City's technology credentials," according to a report in the SF Chronicle, as well as "bridge the digital divide between haves and have-nots." Interest in a number of other major cities--Philadelphia, for example, which announced its idea of free wireless more than a year ago--is also expected to rise now that San Francisco has gone in this direction.

The bid is a joint bid, with Google in essence turning San Francisco into a giant hotspot, and Earthlink offering a higher-performance service for a price estimated to be in the neighborhood of $20 per month. Google has said it plans to test location-specific online advertising with this service, presumably from restaurants and other businesses located in the immediate proximity of users.

Equipment installation for the project is a reported $12 million, which will be shared by Google and Atlanta-based Earthlink. An Earthlink spokesperson told the Chronicle that the company was "ecstatic," and noted that it beat out other bidders, including Razortooth, NextWLAN, Communication Bridge Global, and SF Metro Connect (which was backed by Cisco and IBM).


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WBT News Desk brings you all the latest and greatest news from the world of wireless business and technology, including breaking news, technical articles and feature stories written by the world's leading experts of mBusiness.

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