Google offers to fund wireless hotspots in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO Wed Jul 24, 2013 7:39pm EDT

The Google signage is seen at the company's headquarters in New York January 8, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

The Google signage is seen at the company's headquarters in New York January 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Kelly

Related Topics

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc is offering $600,000 to set up free wireless Internet hotspots in 31 public spaces in San Francisco, but city officials said they need to review annual maintenance costs before it could be approved.

Google has previously funded public wireless projects in its home city of Mountain View, California, in New York Chelsea's neighborhood and around Boston's South Station. The search giant is based 30 miles away from San Francisco but employs hundreds of workers who commute from the city.

San Francisco officials say public Internet service is long overdue for a city that has eclipsed Silicon Valley as the epicenter of the startup ecosystem in recent years, attracting a dramatic influx of venture capital investment and young tech workers.

"There are cities not only here in the U.S. but in many, many foreign countries where free WiFi is ubiquitous. We have a lot of work to do," Supervisor Mark Farrell, who spearheaded the negotiations with Google, said by telephone Wednesday.

Mission Dolores Park, the weekend Mecca of San Francisco's young tech crowd, would be among the areas covered by the plan, as would tourist destinations including Alamo Square as well as Washington Square in North Beach. Some less affluent areas such as the historic Portsmouth Square in Chinatown and the Tenderloin Recreation Center would also be included.

In a statement, Google executive Veronica Bell said the company hopes the free WiFi will be "a resource that the city and other local groups will be able to use in their efforts to bridge the digital divide and make their community stronger."

Because it controls so much of the Web, Google benefits from an increase in Internet use. The company reported $50 billion in revenue in 2012, mostly by selling ads targeting Internet traffic. According to a new study released this week, Google's various properties account for a quarter of all U.S. Internet traffic.

The company said it would not own or manage the network. The angel investor Ron Conway, one of Mayor Ed Lee's staunchest political allies, is coordinating the project through his non-profit SF.Citi.

Members of the local board of supervisors, who still have to formally approve the gift, said the project would undergo a normal review process to make sure that government contracts to install and maintain the service are properly awarded. In 2006, a similar plan to install wireless coverage in San Francisco was scuttled after the deal came under political scrutiny. Officials also said they would review the details of the system's maintenance costs.

In the case of New York City, the network in Chelsea cost $115,000 to build but $45,000 a year to maintain.

San Francisco parks director Phil Ginsburg called Google's gift "no strings attached" and said the city could bear the maintenance costs. Google's donation would cover two years' worth of maintenance costs, which amount to $50,000, he said.

Ginsburg said officials picked 31 locations out of the city's 200 public spaces based on a criteria of geographic and economic diversity. Some areas, including Golden Gate Park, were too big to cover with the sum donated by Google.

Installation of the equipment could begin as early as December and be completed by mid-2014, Farrell said.

(Reporting by Gerry Shih; Editing by Ken Wills)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (4)
David_E_Lewis wrote:
I live in San Francisco and look forward to the service. As this is not the first time Google has offered to provide free WiFi to our city, I hope the political issues that previously blocked their proposal don’t resurface. As this is a highly political town harboring a huge number of hyper-reactive NIMBY types, even free gifts will be opposed by some.

David Elliott Lewis

Jul 25, 2013 3:27am EDT  --  Report as abuse
rblivingston wrote:
Politicians and Google must really take the public for fools if they claim that no strings are attached to this deal. As in many other US cities, civic institutions, libraries, museums, streets, parks and more shared by the public have been under relentless assault by corrupt officials who build their careers enhancing “public-private” and profit-generating special partnerships. In San Francisco park hours are slated to be decreased even as fees and private events (often for technology companies, and their PR-driven “charitable” events) which push the general public out of parks like Golden Gate Park increase. True, San Francisco is far behind other places in having public internet access. Politicians have wrangled for years waiting for gifts rather than propose public investments which can be accountable and truly unfettered by commercial interests. With recent revelations of Edward Snowden, Google does not look good. People are leaving its search engine in droves seeking privacy at competitors that do not require cookies or track their inquiries. People increasingly distrust companies like Google which are suspected of being deeply embedded with an unaccountable government which spies on its citizens (are Google’s calls for greater accountability from politicians who deal with it pretense?). The amount of money Google wishes to give is chump change compared to the incredible profits it makes for its biggest stockholders. I see San Francisco becoming like Detroit as joblessness and austerity increase– even as a few at the top of government, corporations, and financial manipulators gorge themselves pretending to be altruistic. This deal for wi-fi in San Francisco is but one thread of a pattern of pretense which can be summed up as an ignored public allowing its representatives to audaciously throw good to bad. San Francisco is a disgrace of growing poverty, reduced circumstances for a disappearing middle class, and obscene wealth for an annointed few.

Jul 25, 2013 1:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
rblivingston wrote:
Politicians and Google must really take the public for fools if they claim that no strings are attached to this deal. As in many other US cities, civic institutions, libraries, museums, streets, parks and more shared by the public have been under relentless assault by corrupt officials who build their careers enhancing “public-private” and profit-generating special partnerships. In San Francisco park hours are slated to be decreased even as fees and private events (often for technology companies, and their PR-driven “charitable” events) which push the general public out of parks like Golden Gate Park increase. True, San Francisco is far behind other places in having public internet access. Politicians have wrangled for years waiting for gifts rather than propose public investments which can be accountable and truly unfettered by commercial interests. With recent revelations of Edward Snowden, Google does not look good. People are leaving its search engine in droves seeking privacy at competitors that do not require cookies or track their inquiries. People increasingly distrust companies like Google which are suspected of being deeply embedded with an unaccountable government which spies on its citizens (are Google’s calls for greater accountability from politicians who deal with it pretense?). The amount of money Google wishes to give is chump change compared to the incredible profits it makes for its biggest stockholders. I see San Francisco becoming like Detroit as joblessness and austerity increase– even as a few at the top of government, corporations, and financial manipulators gorge themselves pretending to be altruistic. This deal for wi-fi in San Francisco is but one thread of a pattern of pretense which can be summed up as an ignored public allowing its representatives to audaciously throw good to bad. San Francisco is a disgrace of growing poverty, reduced circumstances for a disappearing middle class, and obscene wealth for an annointed few.

Jul 25, 2013 1:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Retirement Road Map