reuters.com | Mon Oct 3, 2005 3:24 PM ET164
By Eric Auchard
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Marking its biggest step into the wireless communications market to date, Google Inc. said on Friday it has proposed to provide free wireless Internet services across the city of San Francisco.
The Web search company said it has responded to a request for information by the City of San Francisco to test local Internet services via Wi-Fi, the short-range wireless technology built into most new laptop computers.
"Google has submitted a proposal to offer free, wireless Internet access (Wi-Fi) to the entire city of San Francisco," Google said in a statement.
The Wi-Fi access could be funded through online advertising, a Google spokesman said.
The service aims to test a range of new services and applications around the hilly city, which is home to more than 700,000 residents.
Offering free wireless communications could thrust Google into competition with entrenched local suppliers of broadband Internet access, including telephone network SBC Communications Inc. and local cable operator Comcast Corp..
An effort by the city of Philadelphia to offer municipal Wi-Fi Internet access services has met with stiff opposition from phone company Verizon Communications. Chicago and New York are among other cities considering similar plans.
"This proposal is limited to San Francisco and we don't have any plans to expand this community service beyond the (San Francisco) Bay Area," the Google statement said.
Confirmation of the Google proposal came after a public "request for information and comment" by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for ideas on creating a universal, affordable, city wireless network.
The wireless proposal aims to reach handheld organizers, computers or mobile phone devices, from the financial district to low-income neighborhoods, the city said in a statement.
In July, Google confirmed that it had began a limited test of a free wireless Web service, called "Google WiFi" with tests at a pizza parlor and gymnasium near its Mountain View, California headquarters
The company began sponsoring a Wi-Fi "hotspot" in a downtown San Francisco shopping district in April, working with a start-up outfit called Feeva.
If it is chosen for the project, Google is working with a variety of partners to help it set up and manage the wireless service, said Google spokesman Nathan Tyler.
Google would work with partners to build and operate the wireless service, including Wireless Facilities Inc., a San Diego company that helps run networks, the Wall Street Journal reported late on Friday.
Other companies that responded to San Francisco's request for information include Internet service provider EarthLink Inc. of Atlanta, the Journal said.
"If accepted, we believe Google can bring to bear its expertise managing complex computer networks combined with years of online consumer product development, to benefit the people of San Francisco," Google said of its proposal.
(Additional reporting by Sinead Carew in New York)
cnn.com | Google bids to take San Francisco WiFi | October 3, 2005: 5:37 PM EDT
Sees the free wireless as an opportunity to test other products.
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Google Inc. attempted to break into yet another sector of the Internet business with a recent bid to provide free wireless Internet access to San Francisco.
The Internet search engine, which launched a free e-mail service and map program around the time its shares soared following an initial public offering last year, was among several companies that submitted proposals to the city, Google spokesman Nathan Tyler said Monday in an e-mail.
Google (Research) proposes placing 20 or 30 connection boxes per square mile on city lampposts. The boxes, similar to regular WiFi boxes, would give users high-speed Internet access without the need for a physical connection or a monthly Internet bill.
The boxes would then all connect to a few fixed-line locations throughout the city, such as existing cable, phone or fiber-optic lines operated by local or long distance phone or cable companies.
Tyler said Google has plans to partner with a cable or phone company for the project, but he declined to name which one. He also declined to say how much the project would cost. But the Wall Street Journal Online, which first reported the story, said costs could run anywhere from $10 million to $20 million.
The Journal also said the service could end up in direct competition with cable or phone companies, which provide most of the current hookups, but Tyler said Google has no plans to expand the service outside the San Francisco area.
While the service would be free, Tyler said it offers the company a chance to test "new location-based applications and services that enable people to find relevant information exactly when and where they need it."
Some of those applications might include a service that uses Google maps to provide directions according to a user's location, or they could provide local advertising that targets customers in the immediate vicinity of the business, according to the Journal.
Reuters reported that San Francisco has received 24 proposals to provide WiFi in the city, including bids from Cingular and EarthLink (Research).