Google, EarthLink Win S.F. WiFi Deal

    April 6, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

The City of San Francisco finished its review of proposals to create a city-wide wireless broadband network, and chose the EarthLink/Google submission out of the six finalist proposals they considered.

Google, EarthLink Win S.F. WiFi Deal
The San Francisco Wireless Treat

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An announcement was made yesterday, disclosing the selection of the combined proposal. Now the City will begin negotiations with Google and EarthLink to hammer out contract terms for establishing the service. Free basic wireless service and faster connections for a monthly fee should be part of the final contract.

“San Francisco has undertaken a thorough, innovative, and transparent process to reach an audacious goal: free wifi for our residents,” said DTIS Executive Director Chris Vein. “By undertaking two competitive processes, we asked the citizens of San Francisco what they thought we should do and we asked the best and brightest technical minds what they thought we should do. Today’s announcement will take us one step closer to making universal and affordable broadband a reality.”

Google had previously agreed to install antennas and equipment throughout San Francisco, and to deliver an ad-supported free wireless broadband service. They would also pay the City for access rights to utility poles and other locations to place its WiFi equipment. That part of the proposal has been shifted to EarthLink.

It appears EarthLink will do the heavy lifting on the customer service side of the equation. Although Google plans to provide Tier 1 support via email and an online help center, the proposal noted that if “a network outage or issue affecting multiple customers exists,” Google may pass the issue to EarthLink support.

EarthLink also detailed multiple levels of support to be available as part of the proposal, for the subscription-based higher speed advertising-free services customers may purchase.

Recently, our Jason Lee Miller noted that Google engineers filed three wireless technology patent applications. All of them appear to have some connection with the forthcoming service in San Francisco:

Patent #20060058019: Method and system for dynamically modifying the appearance of browser screens on a client device.

In one embodiment, a connection of a client device to a wireless access point is identified. Further, the appearance of a screen presented on the client device is modified to reflect the brand associated with a provider of the wireless access point.

Patent #20060059043: Method and system to provide wireless access at a reduced rate

Methods and system for providing wireless access at a reduced rate. In one embodiment, access to a WAP is provided to an end-user at a rate subsidized by a first entity. The first entity includes advertisements in an end-user view.

Patent #20060059044: Method and system to provide advertisements based on wireless access points

Methods and system to provide advertisements in a view of an end user accessing a wireless access point. The advertisements are related to the WAP based on a predetermined criterion.

The 174-page proposal by the two tech companies provides for 95 percent outdoor and 90 percent indoor coverage by the network. The basic free service will offer speeds of around 300kbps over 802.11b/g WiFi connections.

Google also noted the benefits of its advertising services for local businesses, saying it can “enable effective and affordable advertising solutions for small businesses and small proprietors for whom traditional advertising may be too expensive.”

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.