San Francisco taps Google, EarthLink for Wi-Fi network
It wants high-speed wireless Internet access that would be available virtually throughout the city
IDG News Service - Google Inc. is another step closer to its goal of becoming a Wi-Fi wireless LAN service provider in San Francisco.
The Department of Telecommunications and Information Services (DTIS) chose a plan by Google and Internet service provider EarthLink Inc. to provide a free, citywide Wi-Fi network, a spokesman in the city's communications department confirmed yesterday.
The DTIS will now begin contract negotiations with the two companies regarding the plan.
Although the proposal submitted by Google and EarthLink ranked highest of the six bids offered to the DTIS, if satisfactory terms cannot be reached, the city could still terminate the negotiations and begin discussions with the next-highest-ranking bidder.
San Francisco's plan to provide Wi-Fi to its residents has been the target of much media attention, particularly because search giant Google has lobbied hard and publicly for the contract. The company even provided free Wi-Fi access in its home city of Mountain View, Calif., as a testing ground for the proposed San Francisco project.
Google and EarthLink's plan had for some time been viewed as the front-runner among the Wi-Fi proposals San Francisco officials have reviewed. The city wants high-speed wireless Internet access that will be available outdoors virtually throughout the city and in most rooms indoors.
Google and EarthLink have said they will foot the bill for the cost of the network and be responsible for building it.
According to their plan, the companies will offer two wireless Internet services: a free, ad-supported service from Google, and a for-fee service from EarthLink that allows users to surf the Internet at speeds faster than Google's service.
Like other U.S. cities mulling Wi-Fi plans, San Francisco is pushing wireless in hopes of generating economic activity, bridging the "digital divide" between those who can and can't afford traditional broadband and improving city government and public safety communications in the bargain.
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