RealTime IT News

Google Unwires a City

Just as AOL is getting out of the ISP business to focus on advertising, Google today turned on free Internet access for all of Mountain View, Calif.

Google will move its Wi-Fi experiment out of its "trusted-tester" beta phase where its been since June and open the citywide secure wireless connection to anyone with a standard 802.11B or G card.

Chris Sacca, head of special initiatives for Google, said Google's free-for-download VPN, Google Secure Access, which encrypts all data transmitted from the computer, should allay security concerns.

Bandwidth will reach around 1 megabyte per second both ways.

The move comes ahead of schedule, because the community took so readily to the beta test, Sacca told internetnews.com.

But despite the enthusiasm, Google doesn't plan on pursuing the ISP business full time, Sacca said.

The point of Google Wi-Fi is to show that municipal Wi-Fi can be done.

With typical American Internet service providers, Sacca said, "You pay too much and you get too little, particularly compared to Europe or Asia."

Sacca said that's because Americans have too little choice in deciding where to get their broadband access.

Entrepreneurs may try to bring competition to the various markets, but they're quickly sued by more established players.

"What we thought we could do was start a project that brought the public spotlight to the capability and promise of citywide broadband access on a free or cheap basis," Sacca said.

"And in doing so make it unpopular to oppose networks like this."

So now, stroll down the quiet and sunny streets of Mountain View and you'll find Wi-Fi access points hanging from 385 street lamps across the city, relaying the free wireless signal.

Google's Wi-Fi is a picture of corporate activism, but can the company's motives be described as solely, entirely, and purely altruistic?

Sacca said that certainly increased broadband penetration benefits Google.

"If we can inspire more people to build these networks, more cities to go ahead and get these networks built, then more people to use the Internet, there are more searches on Google.

"We all benefit."