Google is making a bid to build a city-wide, free wifi network in San Francisco, reports Om Malik.
The company today filed documents in response to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom s request for information for the city wide network. Google s WiFi plans were first reported by Business 2.0 magazine as part of the GoogleNet article. The company says if its bid is approved, then it is willing to start the work on the network within weeks. Google officials say San Francisco residents (and visitors) will enjoy a free 300 kilobits per second, always on connection anywhere in the city. As part of its proposal, the company says it will be offering wholesale access to other service providers, who will offer higher throughput connections to their customers. Google says it plans to use its own authentication services. (That explains the Google WiFi VPN client to some extent). The company is going to use San Diego-based WFI, a cellular network builder company to build out the WiFi network.
The company proposes to build a network using third party hardware. Google officials say, its free WiFi plans are restricted only to San Francisco. The company does offer free wifi access in Mountain View and New York s Bryant Park.
San Francisco has 24 proposals to deliver a Wi-Fi cloud to blanket every nook and cranny for all 750,000 residents of The City. Google’s proposal calls for installing as many as 30 wi-fi antennas in every square mile of San Francisco.
Newsom said he hoped to streamline the final bidding process and arrive at a contractor to build the citywide wireless service. That may take as little as five months to six months, he told reporters. But a series of public hearings, city approval processes, as well as potential lawsuits by opponents could drag the process out far longer, he cautioned. The mayor said he had no exact figures on how much it would cost to build a wireless umbrella to cover the entire city, but cited various informal estimates that have ranged from $8 million to $16 million for antennas and other gear.
“My intent is to have the taxpayers pay little or nothing,” Newsom said of the municipal wireless project.
In coming months, Newsom predicted, state or federal officials would introduce legislative bills seeking to prevent cities from running wireless services that compete with private companies.
As Matt McKenzie writes:
SBC is all about Congress sticking its noses where they don’t belong. If you’ll recall, one of the company’s former employees, Representative Pat Sessions (R-TX), introduced a bill that would outlaw municipal-sponsored networks. If that bill fails (which seems likely), you can expect these weasels to try again and again to strip local communities of the right to decide what types of public services they support. When you think about it, bare-bones, 300kbps wireless Internet access isn’t even a very daunting competitive barrier; any competent private service provider would have more than enough, above and beyond such a service, to offer its customers.
But just as some companies would rather use sham intellectual-property claims to extort money from customers and competitors, a company like SBC would rather spend its money buying congressmen and tainted “policy research” than deal with customers who have a choice.
Peter Ragone, a spokesman for the mayor, said a decision about a winner would be made “in weeks, not months”. He added that Google had no advantage because of its high profile and that the ultimate decision would be based on what was in their plans.
As part of its 100-page bid, Google said it could install a Wi-Fi network without cost to the city. Users with Wi-Fi-enabled computers could then log on to basic service, without paying, no matter where they are within the city limits.
St. Cloud, Florida offers a “free” cloud using some 300 Tropos 5210 mesh nodes. The $2.5 million system is being funded through an economic development fund within the city with operational costs estimated about $340,000 annually. After the first year, the city expects to save 6 FTE’s (Full Time Employees), with more in later years, allowing the city to offer “free” services. The city of St. Cloud hired MRI to develop a brand identity for the city and approved the expansion of the Cyber Spot to cover the entire city pdf. The 15 square mile city, a suburb of Orlando, has a population of 28,000.
Here’s a plan I wrote 4 years ago to unwire a low income area in Portland. The idea was that premium services such as video games and music would subsidize the service. Maybe it’s an idea whose time has come.
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