Better late than never: After a 8-year wait, Google brings free WiFi to San Francisco parks

Screen shot of Hotel Tonight airport Wifi

It was almost eight years ago when Google toyed with the idea of launching free Wi-Fi in San Francisco public spaces. Google’s radical idea — championed by angel investor Chris Sacca, who at that time was a Google employee — came under criticism and even cellular pioneer Marty Cooper worried about its cost. For political reasons, that deal fell through. Google moved on, offered free Wi-Fi in other cities, started building fiber networks and also launched balloon-based broadband.

It seems we have come a full circle. The company is finally ready to launch free (rather, Google ad-supported) Wi-Fi networks in at least 31 parks in San Francisco. These parks include iconic locations such as the Mission Dolores Park and Alamo Square. The need for Wi-Fi networks has escalated since the launch of the iPhone. Wi-Fi has become crucial part of our state of connectedness.

“Google has enlisted Sf.citi, an association of San Francisco tech companies founded by angel investor Ron Conway, to help administer the program, including managing equipment installation and maintenance and doing community outreach,” the San Francisco Chronicle, which first broke the story, reported.

The lack of free/public Wi-Fi networks when compared to other cities such as New York has been particularly amusing. San Francisco, which likes to consider itself as the epicenter of the tech-business, has been slow in adopting Wi-Fi and newer technologies. Anyway, this is a good development — though I am guessing it will come at a cost: Google tracking you wherever you go, even when chilling in the park.

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