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Google Businesses The Internet Wireless Networking

Google Plans to Offer Free WiFi in San Francisco 170

jacksonwest writes "What's been rumored for some time has now been confirmed -- Google has made a bid in response to Mayor Gavin Newsom's request for information. The details of the bid include citywide access, for free, at 300kbps. The plans dovetail into their location-based advertising and services strategy, and come on the heels of their recent VPN service rollout."
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Google Plans to Offer Free WiFi in San Francisco

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01, 2005 @09:46AM (#13693165)
    Come on... share it! People in DC need free WiFi, too!
  • by metternich ( 888601 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @09:48AM (#13693174)
    Big telecoms have a lot of political influence. Watch this to be denounced as unfair competition, Communist, unamerican, etc. Followed by FCC rules or laws prohibiting it.
    • by scenestar ( 828656 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:07AM (#13693273) Homepage Journal
      Telecom companies managed to stop MUNICIPAL wifi.

      With google being a company there is no "tax payer's money" involved.

      The only thing the Telecom companies can do is sue google for "dumping" their products.
    • I do not think the telecoms will be able to find an argument that will resonate with voters. The general public loves free services. Further, I do not see any plausible legal challenge at this stage. I think the telecoms, while hating this development, will wait and hope that it proves uneconomic and Google stops short of widespread deployment. Hard to say what the final outcome will be, but my betting is that the economics of Google's move will improve over time, however expensive it may be in the shor
      • I do not think the telecoms will be able to find an argument that will resonate with voters.

        Your point? ;-)

        I do not see any plausible legal challenge at this stage.

        Your point? ;-) They'll stop it anyway -- or at least try.

        • I do not think the telecoms will be able to find an argument that will resonate with voters.

          Your point? ;-)

          The politicians will take care of contributors where possible. However, this does not extend to actions that will be seriously unpopular with the voters. I do not think any amount of media spin will make killing a free wifi service popular with the electorate.
    • As a proud resident of this area you don't realize that San Francisco is the most communist and unamerican city in the country! Therefore free wi-fi will be a perfect fit. Thank god there is no city union that currently has a hand in providing telecom service or the plan would be totally doomed.
    • You're right, SBC thinks this is a very bad idea (surprise).

      However, San Francisco is a city that doesn't necessarily listen to large companies. Half the city would be *proud* to be called Communist ;-)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What happens to this infrastructure when newer technology comes out? Isn't this just a waste? What about WiMAX? Thoughts?
  • by slavemowgli ( 585321 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @09:54AM (#13693204) Homepage
    And what does "location-based advertising and services" mean in reality? Free wifi is good, of course, but TNSTAAFL. Can I rely on my traffic not being inspected/recorded by anyone with this offer?
    • Can you rely on your internet connection at home not being inspected/recorded by the company offering the connectivity? Not to start folding tin-foil hats here, but there's not such thing as _real_ privacy over the internet. You just have to decide for yourself wether you want to use the service or not.
      • You make a good point. Once you leave a network that is out of your physical control there is no _gaurantee_ of privacy.

        It's interesting to consider the levels of privacy really possible on the public Internet. The combination of IPSec and anonymous proxies gets you pretty far if combined in clever ways.

        But, as you said, no guarantees...
      • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:40AM (#13693413)
        Folding tinfoil hats? Gah, I though everybody knew you just tear off a strip of tinfoil slightly longer than the circumference of your head, wrap it around, and smush it down into a sleek (though crinckly) helmet-like shape. Smush, I said. Not fold. Why in the world would you say "fold"? Ah, unless you're FROM THE GOVERNMENT, trying to subtly undermine the effectiveness of our improvised protection systems!
        • by rtaylor ( 70602 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @11:23AM (#13693591) Homepage
          Smush? Smush? Are you crazy? Do you know what kind of a radar signature a smushed tinfoil hat has? They'll see you from miles away!

          A properly made tinfoil hat will bounce the brainscanning waves (and radar waves) at odd angles which would not send the signal back to the sender. Nice clean folds. They chould be straight enough that the foil does not touch the head in all locations.

              Agent Watson
              BSD (Brain Scan Department)
    • Free wifi is good, of course, but TNSTAAFL.

    • It means that when you're sitting in Yerba Buena Park slurping on your "free" wifi courtesy of Google, that you'll get ads for movies playing at the Metreon.
    • by spectrokid ( 660550 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:34AM (#13693392) Homepage
      Every wifi access point has its unique code. When you browse, you get a commercial for the shop lying just around the corner. They don't need to inspect your traffic, they know (+/-) where you are. Smart, damn smart...
      • True, but if you use a VPN service, like HotspotVPN or even Google's VPN then location based services won't work. I have used Hotspot VPN's service, but switched over to Google's. The main reason for using the VPN is because I live in an apartment complex with a common internet connection, and I don't want my neighbor or the landlord snooping. But with a VPN then the traffic can not be modified unless it is done at the VPN point. Heck, right now my IP address is showing me at being in San Fransico when I a
    • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:35AM (#13693399)
      Can I rely on my traffic not being inspected/recorded by anyone with this offer?
      What ISP offers that guarantee? So far as I can see, the protections we all took for granted in the days of the telephone are dead.
    • "location-based advertising and services" means that any google ads that you would normally see if you weren't using this service might be further targeted towards you by factoring in location too. As for being "inspected/recorded by anyone", the Google Privacy Policy (URL: lists everything thing collect. This is basically so Google can offer advertisers a better service while gaining some good publicity.
  • by Bob54321 ( 911744 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @09:54AM (#13693205)
    I get free wifi too. My neighbor doesn't secure his connection... its a bit low on signal strength though. Hopefully Google provide me with a better solution soon!
  • All I g2 say is that if u have any money invested in a SF telecom company, well u better start selling... The fact is that it is about time someone did something like this. We are just being raped (economically speaking) by telecom companies who are making massives amounts of money without lowering prices. Now is the time to strike back, well at least in San Franciso, just imagine, Free internet access, free telephone (through IP phones), and that is only the beggining... Tremble u moneymakers.
    • OH...MY...GOD

      A for-profit company! Trying to make money! Why I never.

      All kidding aside, Google is not a charity. What's in this for them? though /. currently loves google, they're out there trying to make a profit for their shareholders just like the evil greedy telecoms. What's the angle here?

      • by LordKaT ( 619540 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:25AM (#13693359) Homepage Journal
        What's the angle? Have you not been keeping track of what exactly Google is?

        Google is, first and foremost, an advertising company. They are going to offer "service and location based" advertising with the free Wi-Fi.

        This is just another service built on top of their advertising network.

        Almost everything Google does is built on top of their advertising network.

        What's in it for Google? A few million people being forced to see the Google Ads.

        That's not a bad thing, in my opinion. A few ads for 300kbs wireless Internet connectivity in the United States? Sign me up.

        Keep in mind that this is not like NetZero:

        NetZero was trying to build an ISP out of Ad revenue. Google is trying to enhance their advertising network by offering an ISP.

        The ISP side of Google can simply be a loss leader in order to obtain a wider understanding of their audience. Hey, it adds a ton value to AdWords, which means they can charge a premium for that service over Yahoo! or MSN, and still remain a dominant force in that market.

        If they roll this out nation-wide, this is going to make Google a ton of money.

  • Could this be what NASA and Google are going to start working on? (j/k). So, Google is becoming an ISP. I think this would be very nice and a good place to start for a nationwide rollout
  • I, for one (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    welcome our new google overloards....

  • Location based Ad? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CSHARP123 ( 904951 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:04AM (#13693260)
    While the initial use of location-based services might be limited to more-focussed and targeted advertising, the potential of location-based services is immense, officials said.

    Location based Ad? Do they monitor the connections to their network. What about privacy?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Exactly. That is Google's plan with their own wifi service, and now they want the city government to sell out every resident to their marketing/advertising database. When you use Google the search engine they record every search term and associate it with your identity. Google web accelerator allow them to record every web page you visit and all information you send and receive over HTTP. Google has slowly surpassed the evil that is Doubleclick while managing to avoid any criticism whatsoever.

      Google wifi ad
    • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:52AM (#13693476)
      Don't need to monitor 'your' connection. Simply pump out ads based on access point.

      Access point X uses ads A, B, & C. Access point Y uses ads D, E, & F.

      They could also cross reference your Gmail ad hits with the WiFi access point you happpened to be connected to, and show you an ad for this tire shop, or that coffee house.

      Don't have to do much more than they already are.

      • Access point X uses ads A, B, & C. Access point Y uses ads D, E, & F.

        With appropriate software multiple access points could caclulate the exact position of a mobile system, to within a few metres.

    • Location based Ad? Do they monitor the connections to their network. What about privacy?

      Ahhaahahahaa!! Ha ha ha aha!! Hah, aha, haaaaa..... hoooo

      Privacy. Good one.
    • You could read their privacy policy, or just trust that they're not evil. All they want to do is serve you ads while you use their free wi-fi hotspots.
    • Is it just me, or is it already fairly easy to do location-based ads? Have you ever seen those porn sites where they say there are Hot Girls Looking For F**k Buddies in $your_city? I guess they could do it more finely-grained then at the city level.
  • Dupe (Score:3, Insightful)

    by anandpur ( 303114 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:08AM (#13693282)
    Dupe at least not on the same page. 4&tid=217&tid=95 []
  • by Powertrip ( 702807 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:10AM (#13693292) Homepage Journal
  • If you're going to San Francisco Be sure to have a wifi-card in your laptop If you're going to San Francisco You're gonna meet some gentle geeks there
  • Ain't Gonna Happen (Score:3, Informative)

    by rmckeethen ( 130580 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:34AM (#13693393)

    Frankly, I'm not buying it. I think the whole S.F. = Free Wi-Fi deal isn't going to happen. Newsom talks big, and he looks good in front of a camera, but when it comes to running the city, I'm not in the least bit impressed. This isn't gonna happen.

    I live in San Francisco, less than three blocks from Union Square, and I'd just be happy if local government could keep garbage and human feces off the damn streets. Free Wi-Fi from the same mayor who pulled the whole 'Care Not Cash' scam on us, the one that was supposed to bring in all the vagrants off the streets yet hasn't done a damn thing that I can see? Yeah, right... Even at 4:45 a.m. I get hit-up for change on the streets here. Yeah, Newsom's gonna give us free Wi-Fi. Please. Give me a break.

    San Francisco can't even route the stupid buses around the city with any sense of sanity; how are they going to route packets any better? Sure, Google knows what they're doing, but they're down in Mountain View, where local government is small and generally sane and they don't have the geographical problems San Francisco has. I think we're going to see a lot of press releases and a few public talks, and then Google will spend millions trying to squeeze packets between the numerous hills and tall buildings the city sports all over the place. They'll get a few hot-spots going, realize that it will take lots more money than they want to spend to totally unwire the city, then they'll quietly shove the project into some closet somewhere, never again to see the light of day.

    Sure, it sounds like a good plan; blanket the city with free Internet access for residents and tourists alike. But San Francisco has so many more pressing issues to deal with that this just feels like another one of Gavin's 'feel-good' moves. I'm not holding my breath, and I'm not giving up my cable modem either.

    • by david614 ( 10051 )
      As I understand this, this service would be provided by Google. For free. Whatever your beef with the SF municipal government, this is an (apparently) cost free add on for city residents. Sort of like a gift horse. I might also add that you don't actually *have* to use it -- especially if it offends your politics.
    • rmckeethen: Don't throw away your cable modem. No one is saying that a WiFi connection is better than a wired connection. And aside from the mobility that it gives you, wired is actually A LOT better that WiFi. Better/faster connection, way more secure, etc. I could go on. The fact of the matter here is that what this move does (in the long run) is provide everyone in S.F. with an Internet connection, wherever they may be-- and this move is especially useful for the people that can't afford the $40/mon
    • You get near 100% cell phone coverage in SF. Why? Network provides make money off that. Same way. Google will find a way to make money off by investing $$$$ to offer free wi-fi to people of SF. More eyes looking at their ads, and more insight on their customer behaviour data comes to mind as potential source of $$$$$$$.
    • Its soo nice to see human compassion here...your first priority is to get homeless people out of your view? Not education. Not cheap and reliable health care. Not better, effective and more efficient policing methods. Real estate development that is not damaging to the existing residents, environment, and beneficial to more than just the few. No...your first priority for your public official is all about you. And what you see. WHich is not to say you're any different from any others in America. Not that
      • No...your first priority for your public official is all about you. And what you see. WHich is not to say you're any different from any others in America.

        A minor correction: He's not different from any other American who voted for George Bush. There are still multiple millions of us who would like to make this great country a better place for everyone - not just the millionaires.
  • by ezzzD55J ( 697465 ) <> on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:43AM (#13693427) Homepage
    Just to show that I got the reference, and for those wondering.. "from the google-google everywhere dept." is a reference to The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner [] by sir Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

    The Mariner tells a story of a ship adrift for so long they ran out of drinking water, after the 'hero' of the story shoots an albatross (bad luck)

    Water, water, everywhere,
    And all the boards did shrink;
    Water, water, everywhere,
    Nor any drop to drink.

    So. That's that.

    • Just to show that I got the reference, and for those wondering.. "from the google-google everywhere dept." is a reference to The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by sir Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

      That's the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, btw... and it'as a kick-ass Iron Maiden song [] too (also note the albatross reference in Serenity... it's about the same poem :-)

  • by matt me ( 850665 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:46AM (#13693443)
    I hope Google would be better, but does anyone know if they plan to restrict access to port 80 only, like some other "free" (strange definition) wi-fi. That would mean the only internet applications that work would be web browsers. You wouldn't be able to send/check email, unless, you were using a webmail service, such as... GMail! Similarly, IM, p2p and everything else that isn't on :80, although many apps can get through firewalls, they lose speed.
  • So basically, theres (dozens||hundreds||thousands) of people... all on the same wireless network. Am I the only one that thinks this will make all the scumbag hackers jobs easier?
  • Nice and flat, and not a lot of tall buildings. I live there.
  • Google Wifi page (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sanmarcos ( 811477 )
    This is going to go off their network in a few hours, but its been up for days. [] []
    • So its Windows only. ;-(
      Since this started out as a 20% project you'd think that maybe the Google guy who did this for himself would want a Mac or Linux program!
    • From FAQ:
      Google Secure Access (Beta): Frequently Asked Questions

      What is Google Secure Access?

      Google Secure Access is a downloadable client application that allows users to establish a more secure WiFi connection.

      Why would I want to download and install Google Secure Access?

      Google Secure Access allows you to establish a more secure connection while using Google WiFi. By using Google Secure Access, your internet traffic will be encrypted, preventing others from viewing the information you transmit.

  • WalMart of WiFi (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rerunn ( 181278 )
    This will kill all the little mom and pops wifi offerrings. Alot of them have thrived by being creative (ie. free access for foot traffic) but this will surely change things.
    • I dont think this has got anything to do with Google. Mayor Newsom had talked about it last year []. I think all google is trying to do is cash on on his idea. If you dont want to use it don't.
  • Satellite Radio - We can just use the internet to stream audio now.

    Cell Phone/Telcom - PDAs with Skype will be cheaper than complicated contracts with mysterious service fees.

    I'm sure there are more I'm not thinking of...
  • Not free (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Duncan3 ( 10537 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @12:02PM (#13693747) Homepage
    It's adware.

    Not theat the press ever gets anything right ;)
  • Wouldn't it have been better to spend all that money to help the bazillion HOMELESS people that are in San Francisco? For a city that promotes itself as being so progressive, they really need to help the homeless folks out there, and Google would make a lot more impact by helping those folks.
    • Why?

      So now you have of people who are marginally better off, many of whom are crazy or otherwise unemployable, and generally unskilled.

      Or you could use the money to provide more valuable tools to those who *are* producing something.

      If you had a proposal to, y'know, generate *useful* jobs for said homeless types, then I might be more sympathetic.

      I'm not adverse to the idea of a Basic Income scheme (everyone is guaranteed some minimum income from the state); in today's society, it's probably reasonable. But
  • Ads Ads everywhere (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Nomad37 ( 582970 )
    How about this for a (relatively) non-intruisve location-based ad idea. Install electronic billboards near wifi access points and based on *aggregate* data, serve up relevant ads. Make sure they're not _too_ targeted or people start getting seriously freaked out by the minority-report style holo-ads ;)

    just a thought...
  • Philadelphia WiFi (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ZipprHead ( 106133 )
    Philadelphia has had a municiple WiFi plan in place for a while. Test areas are up and running. They are hoping to go live sometime in 2006. A little optimistic I think, but it's actually happening. Pretty exciting for me being in the downtown area. []
  • by delirium of disorder ( 701392 ) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @02:19PM (#13694338) Homepage Journal
    I highly doubt that users will get as much of a real Internet connection with these new free wifi services as they do with home DSL or cable service. Modern broadband service in the USA provides you with an Internet routable IP address that you can run server applications on any port of. The power of broadband has allowed p2p to prosper among average users, and has let any slashdotter in their parent's basement host their own SSH, FTP, HTTP, IRC, and etc, servers.

    Unfortunately...most users wouldn't care if they couldn't do this anymore. If they can get free wifi that goes through NAT to get to the Internet, they'll use it, and the market for real Internet connections will disappear. Ubiquitous free wifi would be great for a centralized content provider like google, but would effectively destroy the market for cheap symmetric* Internet connections. The "power user" market will be too small to keep DSL companies in business. Small businesses and individuals will have to outsource their hosting to giant colo facilities even if they have the hardware and know how to run their own servers. This could potentially be a real threat to democracy on the Internet.

    Most users want the net to be more like television: a multimedia service that turns individuals into passive media consumers and that only allows corporations to be content producers. The new Internet will provide consumers with more services then TV does. However, without any cheap and easy decentralized distribution method, the set of service providers will be restricted to those who can afford high bandwidth connections. This could be a great loss of potential information and services for consumers, and moreover would be a restriction of freedom for those who wish to be content providers.

    Wireless networking could lead to the further decentralization of the Internet. Cooperative or personal wifi projects are helping us move in that direction. A centralized service like google wifi would mean going backwards.

    *Data will still be able to travel in both directions of course, but other Internet users would not be able to initiate connections with the free wifi hosts, thus forcing the wifi users to only run clients, not servers.
  • From Verizon Wireless Broadband terms of service []:

    Unlimited NationalAccess/BroadbandAccess services cannot be used (1) for uploading, downloading or streaming of movies, music or games, (2) with server devices or with host computer applications, including, but not limited to, Web camera posts or broadcasts, automatic data feeds, Voice over IP (VoIP), automated machine-to-machine connections, or peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, or (3) as a substitute or backup for private lines or dedicated data connection

  • Apple builds the iPod/cellphone. Google provides the new nationwide infrastructure and becomes a new phone company. A truely compelling cell phone with real useful features (real email, real web, iPod, calendaring). Way cool.

  • CEO: "We're tech company that everybody loves, with a stock price 6 times higher than is rational, and so now we have cash hanging out our collective asses. What can we do to make ourselves stand out and look cool?"

    Tech: "Offer something free to the public."

    CEO: "Great idea!"

    Actually, even then stuff was sponsored by advertising revenues. Remember all those "get paid to surf the web" programs, like (and the apps that would pretend to surf for you while you were away from your PC? :P )

  • Someone on an amateur radio (one service that could be negatively affected by it) newsgroup said so, and further gave this URL: []