Google, Earthlink Clear MuniFi Hurdle

    January 8, 2007

On Friday, Google and Earthlink came to finalized terms on the contract to build infrastructure for a free wireless network for the city of San Francisco. The city’s Board of Supervisors must now approve the deal in order for the companies to move forward with construction.

It looks like Google and Earthlink have cleared the first hurdle in the process of building the MuniFi network for the city. Finalizing the partnership agreement, however, will probably turn out to be the simplest part of this whole endeavor.

Back in October, Google met with local politicians to explain how the two companies planned to implement the project, and were met with a less than warm reception. Davis Freeberg was on hand, and commented on some of the outlandish constraints that the city wanted to put on the project:

Some of the crazier demands that were suggested at the meeting included a “requirement” for every San Francisco renter to sign a lease addendum with their landlords before being allowed to install a WiFi card in their PC, forcing Google to agree to transport kids back and forth to the Zoo in their Google busses and a requirement for EarthLink to pay the electrical costs for running computers in order to prevent brownouts.

Now that everyone has agreed in principle to how the partnership between the two companies should look, the next obstacle lies in selling the idea to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, some of which are looking to supplant the effort by suggesting the city build its own municipally owned network, without the help of Google and Earthlink.

“We should stop and look and not just leap just because the mayor wants to be able to sell this sizzle,” says city supervisor Jake McGoldrick as quoted in a Wireless article.

“By giving EarthLink access to light poles and other locations for radios, the city is giving away valuable resources in a deal that locks it in for several years. The city could contract with private companies to carry out technical tasks, but it should own the network and be able to price services itself.”

Speaking of service pricing, Earthlink plans to provide 1M bps wireless services for around $20 a month, while Google will offer a slower, but completely free (and ad-supported) alternative at 300K bps.

That is of course, if the project ever gets off the ground.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.