Print 11 comment(s) - last by irwinMfletcher.. on Aug 27 at 6:59 PM

Partnering with other companies, Google hopes to keep free WiFi alive in one California town

The communications network EarthLink was for a time seen as a messiah of sorts for the free wireless movement.  After spending millions to build several free networks in cities across the country, its efforts collapsed, and it went from messiah to pariah for its failed claims.  The bad part was that EarthLink’s customers were suddenly faced with severance.

Some networks, such as Philadelphia's municipal WiFi, which was supposed to be shut down in June, have been saved by private investors.  At the last minute, when dismantling was expected to commence, a group of investors known as the Network Acquisition Company bought the network, and have kept free WiFi flowing to parts of the city.

Now Google is partnering with I-Net Solutions, and some wireless equipment makers, to rescue another network which EarthLink left for dead.  They are looking to help the city of Milpitas stay connected.  Milpitas is home to SanDisk’s headquarters and the headquarters of several other major tech firms.  Seagate, Symantec, Cisco, Maxtor, and many others have offices in the city as well.

When EarthLink first built the Milpitas network, it invested $1M USD in the infrastructure equipment.  The network was actually not one of the free ones, but offered service on a subscription bases.  Perhaps even more painful than the free network's collapse, when EarthLink's services fell apart, its paying customers lost their coverage.  Since the fall of EarthLink, the network has been placed in city hands, and the city has been using it for fire and police traffic.

Under the new agreement, awaiting finalization, Google and others will run the nonprofit network, and will be contracted by the city.  The network will provide free WiFi to both citizens and local government.

Google is a strong supporter of free WiFi efforts and it has some experience on the topic.  Google already provides free access in the city of Mountain View, California, home of Google's headquarters.  Google is lobbying the Federal Communications Commission to open up the "white space" spectrum between television channels.  Google says this spectrum could be used to provide free or inexpensive broadband access.  Microsoft founder Bill Gates has also backed this stance.

It believes that earlier free efforts like EarthLink's were not a bad idea in principle, but were, rather, sloppily implemented and ahead of their time.  Says Derek Slater, a policy analyst for Google, in his blog, "Rather than prematurely writing off the idea, it's important to critically study municipal networks' successes and shortcomings.  As we've written about before, America generally lags behind the rest of the developed world in broadband penetration and speeds, and we ought to be exploring many different solutions, both private and public, to bring fast, affordable Internet access to everyone."

Currently 80 percent of Americans go online, but broadband use is growing more slowly than expected.

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RE: An alternate title
By Master Kenobi on 8/26/2008 4:29:37 PM , Rating: 2
Google's business ventures are not based on paid for products so I'm curious to see if sometime in the future they end up with some problems. I've always been somewhat adverse to businesses built on advertisement delivery. Seems kind of unstable as a core business offering.

RE: An alternate title
By Lifted on 8/26/2008 5:21:12 PM , Rating: 2
I've always been somewhat adverse to businesses built on advertisement delivery.

Like newspapers, magazines, television, and DailyTech?

Google's core will likely always be it's search engine, everything else is basically advertising for their name.

RE: An alternate title
By mikefarinha on 8/26/2008 5:45:44 PM , Rating: 2
Google's business ventures are not based on paid for products so I'm curious to see if sometime in the future they end up with some problems.

Google already offers free wi-fi through their TiSP program

From their site:
Sign up for our free in-home wireless broadband service Sick of paying for broadband that you have to, well, pay for? Introducing Google TiSP (BETA), our new FREE in-home wireless broadband service. Sign up today and we'll send you your TiSP self-installation kit, which includes setup guide, fiber-optic cable, spindle, wireless router and installation CD.

RE: An alternate title
By KC7SWH on 8/27/2008 10:42:25 AM , Rating: 2
ROFLMAO I was busting a gut thinking of all the people who were going to flush fiber optic cable down their toilets.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007

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