Google is providing a $600,000 grant to San Francisco that will allow the city to create a free WiFi network for residents and visitors throughout its 31 parks and public open spaces.
The grant, which is expected to cover the cost of needed equipment, installation and maintenance of the system for two years, was announced in a July 23 story by The San Francisco Chronicle. Google will not own or operate the network.
The city's mayor, Ed Lee, praised the plan as a "great example" of the "public-private partnerships [that] are key to the delivery of better services for our residents in the 21st century," according to the The Chronicle. Some other city properties are already wired for free Internet access, including parts of City Hall, San Francisco International Airport and public housing developments, but an overall citywide WiFi system has never yet been realized after several proposals surfaced in the past, the newspaper said.
The installation of the system will begin in December 2013, and all 31 sites are expected to be fully completed and ready for use by the spring of 2014, according to a blog post by city supervisor Mark Farrell, who worked with Google on the project.
"San Francisco should be a leader for bringing technology solutions to its residents and improving their quality of life on a day-to-day basis," Farrell told The Chronicle. "There are so many added benefits—it will help bridge the digital divide, it will empower local residents and community groups who will have access at local parks, and it will help Recreation and Park Department staff sign up kids for camps and recreation programs with Internet speed many people would be shocked doesn't already exist."
The proposed project still must be approved by the city's planning department, parks commission, Department of Technology and by the city's Board of Supervisors, The Chronicle reported.
Google has signed up Sf.citi, a local association of San Francisco technology companies, to help administer the program, including managing equipment installation and maintenance and doing community outreach, the newspaper reported.
"Google is proud to provide free WiFi in San Francisco, a city where thousands of Googlers work and live," Veronica Bell, a community affairs manager for Google, told eWEEK. "This network will make the Web more accessible than ever for many San Franciscans—all they have to do is visit their neighborhood park to get online. We hope that free WiFi will be a resource that the city and other local groups will be able to use in their efforts to bridge the digital divide and make their community stronger."
The project means that parks and other public facilities throughout San Francisco, including Mission Dolores Park, Alamo Square, Bernal Heights Recreation Center, Eureka Valley Recreation Center, Palega Playground and Washington Square, will get capabilities that will spread the use of WiFi across the city.
Google has already created free WiFi networks in other cities where the company has local connections. In January 2013, Google announced the creation of a free outdoor WiFi network in the southwest section of the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan, where Google has its New York headquarters. The system encapsulates the first Google-served neighborhood in Manhattan and is slated to be the largest contiguous WiFi network in New York City, according to Google. The network was offered in partnership with a local nonprofit neighborhood group, The Chelsea Improvement Co.