San Francisco's Mayor Wants All Residents To Have Internet
SAN FRANCISCO -Google Inc. wants to connect all of San Francisco to
the Internet with a free wireless service, creating a springboard for the online
search engine leader to leap into the telecommunications industry.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company filed an application late Friday to
provide wireless, or "WiFi," service that would enable anyone in San
Francisco to connect to the Internet.
Google submitted its 100-page bid in response to a request from Mayor Gavin
Newsom, who is looking for a company to finance a free wireless network to lower
the financial barriers to Internet access in his city.
More than a dozen other bidders are competing with Google.
If Google is picked for the San Francisco project, it would provide a testing
ground for a national WiFi service – something that many industry observers
believe the company is pondering as a way to ensure people can connect to its
search engine anytime, from just about anywhere.
"It makes sense for Google," said Chris Winfield, who runs a search
engine marketing firm, 10e20. "They say their mission is to organize the
world's information, so the logical next step is to provide the access to it."
Google spokesman Nate Tyler said Saturday that the company doesn't have any
plans to offer a WiFi service outside the San Francisco Bay area.
"Unwiring San Francisco is a way for Google to support our local Bay Area
community," Tyler said. "It is also an opportunity to make San Francisco
a test-ground for new location-based applications and services that enable people
to find relevant information exactly when and where they need it."
Google has been quietly experimenting with WiFi service in a few connection
spots around the Bay Area and New York during the past few months. In another
sign of its interest in Internet access, Google recently bought an undisclosed
stake in a Maryland startup, the Current Communications Group, which is trying
to provide high-speed connections through power lines.
If it wants, Google has both the financial clout and the incentive to get into
WiFi. What remains unclear is whether the company has the telecommunications
expertise to build and maintain a WiFi service.
The company has nearly $7.1 billion in cash, having just raised $4.17 billion
in stock offering completed last month. That stock sale prompted several industry
analysts to conclude Google might be preparing to build its own high-speed Internet
Offering free WiFi service could pay off for Google if the greater access gives
the company more opportunities to field search requests and ultimately serve
up more advertising - the vehicle that provides virtually all of its profits.
Building its own wireless Internet network connection also would help Google
save money by reducing the fees that it pays to the telecommunications middlemen
that provide a bridge between the company's data centers and Internet service
providers whenever Web surfers make a search request.
Any free Internet access service would threaten to siphon revenue from subscription
Internet service providers like SBC Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. that
have invested heavily in high-speed connections that depend on phone lines and
A Google WiFi service also could divert traffic from many popular Web sites,
including Yahoo, MSN and AOL, if it's set up to automatically make Google's
home page the first stopping point.