Google Paying Frisco To Setup Wi-Fi

    October 3, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

Not only has Google made the city of San Francisco an offer to provide city-wide wireless Internet access, the city may even make money on the deal.

By now, everyone’s heard how Google stepped in at the last minute on September 30 to respond to San Francisco’s request for proposals for citywide wireless access. While competitive offerings came with a price tag attached, Google made the offer to put 300 kbps Wi-Fi throughout the area at no cost to the city.

One little bit of information that may have been overlooked is how Google plans to compensate the city for access to places where its antennas need to be placed. The Mercury News mentioned this in passing (emphasis added):

Google’s proposal calls for a “mesh” wireless network that would use 20 to 30 “access radio points” per square mile — or more than a thousand citywide — on telephone poles and rooftops throughout San Francisco. Google told the city its only requirement would be access to the poles and rooftops, for which it would reimburse the city at fair market value.’

Not only would the city have its Wi-Fi provided for free, but it would make money by accepting Google’s proposal. It’s tough to see Gavin Newsom and the city council turning down the Googleplex in this scenario.

Another target affected collaterally by Google’s proposal could be search engine competitor Yahoo. SBC Communications has partnered with Yahoo to offer DSL in several states. SBC’s proposal to the city could easily have incorporated a partnership with Yahoo. Shunting SBC aside would give Google a little victory over its biggest search advertising competitor, a situation that may have people in Sunnyvale kicking themselves this morning.

Digital Divide offers an interesting view on the whole issue. Tim Karr’s post includes a note on how a former SBC executive may have been giving his former company a bit of a boost via the legislative route in Congress:

Over the year, the largest cable and DSL providers have attempted to squash local initiatives by introducing prohibitive legislation in statehouses across the country. In May, Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX) sponsored a House bill that would “prohibit municipal governments from offering telecommunications, information, or cable services.” Sessions — who was a 16-year SBC executive prior to taking office — still owns more than half a million dollars worth of stock options in the telephone giant; his wife, Juanita, still works for the company.

The legislation in question, H.R.2726, would prevent the city or any other municipality from offering “telecommunications, information, or cable services” except where private enterprises had not provided such services. Currently the ironically-named “Preserving Innovation in Telecom Act” of 2005 has been languishing in a House subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.

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