September 30, 2005
Google Submits Bid to Offer Free Wi-Fi to San FranciscoGoogle submitted a 100 page bid to the city of San Francisco today to offer free Wi-Fi access for its residents. Over a dozen other ISPs and companies including Earthlink have also put in bids. Although the mayor's office hasn't outlined a specific time-frame, in the past he has said he would like the service to go live sometime in 2006.
The guidelines for proposals include accessibility from 95% of outdoor locations and 90% inside buildings. Google may pay for the service through local advertising, although this hasn't been decided. There are no plans however to share revenue with the city. Chris Sacca, a Google business development principal, has said the offering's goal was to "be good citizens and along the way learn a lot."
The bid plans to offer amazing EV-DO type speeds of 300 kilobits/sec, which is obviously much faster than dial-up. Google is going to build out using 820.11b and 802.11g wireless standards with an eventual upgrade to 802.11n. It would be a boon for people that can't afford broadband access and a great backup connection if your internet connection goes down. The company has said there are no current plans to offer the free service outside of San Francisco. One can speculate the company would like to try it out in one city to see what works and then develop new innovative location-sensitive applications for a larger roll-out in the future.
I don't think the telecom and cable companies are going to be happy with this new development. Look forward to Verizon, SBC, and Comcast to use their legal and political lobbying muscle to impede this free Wi-Fi trend. When a firm goes after your crown jewels, these companies will fight back hard. It's bad enough that startups like Vonage are killing their wireline revenues.
Google, you are commended for using the $4 billion you recently raised for the good of the common people. Go get those stodgy, greedy telecom companies. Take them down. We have speculated on this action in the past, now it's definitely becoming reality. [Discuss]