GoogleFi, Almost Live For Some

Live from Mountain View–A few months ago a Google exec told me a story about a city resident who took a swing at him after a public hearing on Google’s WiFi plans. Naturally, when I heard about a public WiFi training session for Mountain View residents at the Googleplex last night, I had to stop by. Well, no fisticuffs, but a few interesting tidbits.

Google’s Mountain View WiFi network is ready to go, though not open to the public, but about 100 people are already starting to receive invitations to test the service.

The invitations give directions on how to discover the SSID number of the network, which is the number that distinguishes one wireless network from another. (Anyone want to send one along to us?) Right now the SSID number is “cloaked”, so Mountain View residents can’t access it. A few of the residents were saying that they could already see the SSID number when their computer searches for a WiFi signal. That made a Google spokesperson look a bit nervous.

There were probably more than a hundred residents at the training session, and most were worried about not being able to get coverage. For a few areas of Mountain View the company could not secure space on light poles, so Google is asking residents if they wouldn’t mind putting an access point on their chimneys. They even thought about flyer-ing those areas, but said they didn’t want to be too aggressive. Google also said that “it is unlikely that a WiFi-enabled laptop or computer with a conventional WiFi card will work indoors at most locations. If you want to use the system indoors we suggest getting an extended-range WiFi modem.” So that’s another extra cost if the resident wants to rely on the network as a DSL or cable replacement.

After the 100 testers give the network a rigorous review, more trusted-testers will be invited to check it out. Google is calling it a “rolling launch.” They want to make sure that there’s as few glitches as possible for the official launch day, which they’ve only set at the “summer of 2006.” Hopefully we’ll get a chance to give it a spin pretty soon.

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