San Francisco Goes For Google's Wi-Fi Plan

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google has come another step closer in its quest to become a Wi-Fi wireless LAN service provider in San Francisco.

The Department of Telecommunications and Information Services (DTIS) chose a plan by Google and Internet service provider Earthlink to provide a free citywide Wi-Fi network, a spokesman in the city's communications department confirmed this week.

DTIS will now begin contract negotiations with the two companies regarding the plan, the department said.

Although the plan submitted by Google and Earthlink ranked highest of the six bids submitted to DTIS, if satisfactory terms cannot be reached, the city may terminate those negotiations and begin discussions with the next highest-ranking bidder, the department said.

San Francisco's plan to provide Wi-Fi to its residents has been the target of much media attention, particularly because search giant Google has lobbied hard and publicly for the contract. The company even provided free Wi-Fi access in its home city of Mountain View, California, as a testing ground for the proposed San Francisco project.

Front Runners

Google and Earthlink's plan had for some time been viewed as the front-runner as San Francisco officials reviewed request for proposals (RFPs) for its plan to provide Wi-Fi service to the city's residents. The city called for RFPs for the plan, which seeks high-speed wireless Internet access that would be available outdoors virtually throughout the city and in most rooms indoors, last December.

Google and Earthlink have said they would foot the bill for the cost of the network and will be responsible for building it.

According to their plan, the companies will offer two wireless Internet services--a free, ad-supported service from Google, and an Earthlink for-fee service that allows users to surf the Internet at speeds faster than Google's service.

Like other U.S. cities mulling Wi-Fi plans, San Francisco is pushing wireless in hopes of generating economic activity, bridging the "digital divide" between those who can and can't afford traditional broadband, and improving city government and public safety communications in the bargain.

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