Blog Post

Google Confirms Free San Francisco WiFi Plans

Stay on Top of Emerging Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Google is making a bid to build a San Francisco-wide free wifi network, according to company officials. The company today filed documents in response to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s request for information for the city wide network. Google’s WiFi plans were first reported by Business 2.0 magazine as part of the GoogleNet article. The company says if its bid is approved, then it is willing to start the work on the network within weeks.

Google officials say San Francisco residents (and visitors) will enjoy a free 300 kilobits per second, always on connection anywhere in the city. As part of its proposal, the company says it will be offering wholesale access to other service providers, who will offer higher throughput connections to their customers. Google says it plans to use its own authentication services. (That explains the Google WiFi VPN client to some extent). The company is going to use San Diego-based WFI, a cellular network builder company to build out the WiFi network.

The company proposes to build a network using third party hardware. Google officials say, its free WiFi plans are restricted only to San Francisco. The company does offer free wifi access in Mountain View and New York’s Bryant Park.

“San Francisco will be a true test bed for location based services and applications,” says Chris Sacca, principal of new business development at Google. While the initial use of location-based services might be limited to more-focussed and targeted advertising, the potential of location-based services is immense, officials said. Sacca pointed out that the network bid was in line with Google’s thinking on delivering answers anytime anywhere to anyone, and looking beyond a desktop PC.

When asked if this puts the company in direct conflict with incumbents like SBC and Comcast, Sacca replied, “I think a few months ago, we might have thought that, but we have talked to them and it seems the thinking is evolving amongst other last mile providers.”

I wonder how it impacts others who want to get involved with the muniwireless space? The Google Talk implications on a free network are quite far reaching, if you ask me, but then that’s just me.

101 Responses to “Google Confirms Free San Francisco WiFi Plans”

  1. “HAHAHA!!! San Francisco!?!?!? FREE WIFI?!?!? GIVE ME A *&#%)#^$% BREAK!!!! Comcast has got SF locked down, and especially were I live, it’s broadband or nothing. No DSL service here. Why would Comcast release it’s monopoly on the city’s Broadband service, when there’s millions, possibly even billions of dollars to be made. “Wi-Fi” = When Idiots Fantasize Intoxicated!!! . . . and stop smokin’ too! Anyone who thinks anything comes for free must’ve been dropped on their heads as children.”

  2. It would be great if Google or some other able company would provide service for us soldiers over here in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are getting ripped off by paying $35/month for a 64Kbs capped connection that performs at about <5Kbs. I wouldn’t mind paying the money, its just that the service is not worth it…at all! Please, somebody, somewhere spark some interest for us. We’re hurting over here in the connectivity department. Thanks

  3. Thomas Smith

    Please advise me how to contact Google executives, specifically those executives who were former Microsoft employees.


    Thomas Smith

  4. MoOm to all of you

    I was recently at a meeting where they were discussing the value of WiFi coverage over the coastal area. The boats on the sea will need wifi connectivity so they know what is happening on the land. Salivating over the revenue through targeted advertising to fishermen and fishing fans. I heard this would be a mesh network of WiFi access points on GoogBoats.

    Go Google!

  5. John Bonds


    An idea that hopefully will be widespread in the near future. Google makes their money by people using their search engine. Making connectivity free is a no-brainer. Probably one of the more expensive no-brainers though :)


  6. Om, nice work. You’ve been out ahead of the curve on this one for a while now even if Google is still protesting a nationwide network. There’s some interesting backlash; seems that a reasonable number of the more tech-inclined aren’t that comfortable with Google-as-Network-Provider…essentially fearing that by providing transport as well as all their other services they’ll pretty much have you pinned down like a bug in a box. Heck, if you’re using G-Net to browse some pr0n in your room at the Metro Hotel (that Google knows you booked with your Amex and checked in at 3:45 when at 3:30 you sms’d Google (46645) for the st. address and then again for a taxi service from the airport) they could either message you offering to deliver some “accessories” or, if you’ve been an idiot and are browsing something of questionable legality they could just as easily “dispatch” the authorities and catch you in the act.

    Of course that is a dramatization but the technology exists and Google wants to deploy it. Some folks are suggesting that it’s over-reactionary to even remark on this issue but I think there ought to be a line. I mean, if personal information that is so readily available wasn’t overly valuable I don’t think Eric Schmidt (CEO of Google) would have been quite so upset with C-Net for “Googling” him.

    I wonder, would you use Google Net for your personal browsing in SF? Do you use GMail? Would you for something sensitive?

    I think you’re opinion would be tremendously valuable seeing as how you’veobviously given this more thought than just about anyone.


    Oliver Starr “stitch”

  7. java2king

    Nice! Wish Google spent the money that they raised trying to make some money so that they investors get a return. None of their new business launches have added a penny to their bottom line, and now infrastructure expenses where they have little industry experience and expertise on board..esp. telco and wireless.

    Of course, they have a plan, but I think the number of shares the insiders are selling makes me think that they have little confidence in their own plans, seems like over a billion dollars in shares sold!!!

  8. For comparison, Verizon Broadband is $79.99 a month with a 2 year contract which stipulates:

    Unlimited NationalAccess/BroadbandAccess services cannot be used (1) for uploading, downloading or streaming of movies, music or games, (2) with server devices or with host computer applications, including, but not limited to, Web camera posts or broadcasts, automatic data feeds, Voice over IP (VoIP), automated machine-to-machine connections, or peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, or (3) as a substitute or backup for private lines or dedicated data connections.

    So with Verizon you can’t even use Skype.

    On a more interesting note, a kid with a cheap computer with free access to Wikipedia probably has more opportunities to learn than a kid at a posh private school in 1990.

    This is the kind of stuff that happens in truly free markets, it’s a beautiful thing.

  9. [When asked if this puts the company in direct conflict with incumbents like SBC and Comcast, Sacca replied, “I think a few months ago, we might have thought that, but we have talked to them and it seems the thinking is evolving amongst other last mile providers.â€?]

    Hmm, so what does the Sacca quote mean? Are they competing with SBC and Comcast or not?

  10. OM pretty slick work I should say. You are the un-official PR man for Google. So do we see Google Phone in SFO , hand held with Google Talk that allows you to touch base pretty much with anybody on your contact list. Perhaps sounds very far-fetched, but definitely is a possibility.