SF WiFi… & the winner Is…Google


By Jackson West

According to the Associated Press, Google has gotten their way after announcing their intention to provide San Francisco with free wifi last September. Having combined forces with Earthlink after submitting competing proposals in the first round of responses to The City’s Request for Information, they bested a select group of five other companies and partnerships on points [PDF] in front of a secret panel selected by Chris Vein, a mayoral appointee who heads The City’s Department of Telecommunications and Infrastructure (DTIS).

Of course, Google has asserted that Earthlink will simply be a carrier for their ad-subsidized, 300 kilobits per second service. Now the two can enter into contract negotiations directly with Executive Director Vein and the DTIS for a 8-10 year lease to be the sole provider, with Earthlink administering the accounts. While it won’t cost The City a dime from their budget, customers will pay approximately $20 a month for ad-free a megabit per second service, the 90%-plus signal saturation provision probably won’t be satisfied any time soon and the substantial privacy questions still remain unadressed.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who was spotted on a flight home from Davos with Larry and Sergei in January of 2005, has spearheaded the TechConnect project since August, trumpeting the business and social impacts of free wireless. The social activists haven’t gotten too far, and we haven’t had any serious opposition from the incumbents in San Francisco. So Earthlink and Google walk away with wireless riches, and perhaps a license to print money in San Francisco.

On a closing note, this is yet another win for Tropos Networks, which seems to have hitched its wagon with a winner, Earthlink. How long before you think Earthlink will spin out its Muni business?


Zeke Krahlin

Well, here it is year 2010, and we all know what happened w/Google and free wifi. It bombed, totally. Well, San Francisco sucks big time, always has, always will…so why should free Internet be an exception?

Jesse Kopelman

Dennis, how is HSPA going to offer 4-5 times the bandwidth? Max badwidth for a HSPA radio is < 20 Mbps. Max bandwidth for a 802.11g radio is 54 Mbps. Now neither will reach anywhere close their capabilities in the real world, but it’s safe to say a well designed WiFi network has an advantage in raw bandwidth over any 3G technology. As always, actual speeds to the user depend more on implementation than hardware.

Jackson West

Google has made noises about open-network support for consumer wifi devices. And I admit their vpn softs are probably pretty secure (as long as you ultimately trust Google). But the point I’m trying to make is that The City of San Francisco is asking certain things of the provider that Google/Earthlink aren’t promising to deliver, yet they won the right to negotiate the contract. Seems fishy, but then so much local politics does.

Dennis Evans

The contengency of WiFi and loading of the system assumes bursting [inet up and downloads] not continuous duty telco like seizing the channel. To do Voip reliably [more than a few at a time per node would require a greater bandwidth and or more robustness [low latency and no/lower packet loss]…maybe you could listen to a minute of commercials, per minute used in telephony?

While you are hanging a big box on a light pole who knows how many transceivers [slots for] are in the box? 700,2.1, 2.3, 2.45, 2.6-2.7, 5.8?

Why I think the CAPEX/OPEX will be 50% higher than budget.

Using a 10 year payback as one of the posters did is way too long. Technology will change every 3 years at least for the paying subs…as HSPA will offer 4-5x the bandwidth for $40…2-3 years in.


Can this network be somehow connected to MindSpring VOIP or MVNO (Helio)? I can see VOIP happening, but am not sure about Helio.

Wai Yip Tung

From Mercury News
an Earthlink spokesman estimated that the Google-Earthlink plan would cost $6 million to $7 million to install, and $15 million for maintenance, billing and upgrades over the next 10 years.

If they got 10,000 subscribers to pay the $20 for 10 years, it would be 10000x20x12x10=24mil. This already cover the cost. The profit from ads could be even bigger.

home business information

Citywide WI-FI is fantastic if your don’t have to be a slave to any particular location/s. I wish it would be nationwide.
in fact, why not worldwide! I like to spend time in the Jamaica. I also like to take my laptop with me but find it difficult to get a decent internet connection appart from going to the local phone company’s store, cyber cafe, or some place that only have dial up connection.

Run the thing through a satellite if you have to, but please give me my broadband wireless connection worldwide so I can have fun while I work!


I’ve got to acknowledge a wonderful author and visionary in the voip/wireless area. His name is Frank Ohrtman. I read his book Wifi Handbook in which he laid out the future of wireless technologies. This was over 3 years ago and he has been right on. I can’t wait to read his next book on newer technologies such as IMS, Wimax, etc.

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