Partner City for Google Wi-Fi

By Ben Charny  |  Posted 2006-05-04 Print this article Print

Seth Fearey and his colleagues at a joint venture to build a huge wireless Internet network recently learned that Google wasn't going to participate.

Isn't that bad news? An ambitious joint venture learns an extremely high-profile company with lots of cash and wireless dreams won't be taking part? To the contrary, said Fearey, the vice president and chief operating officer of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, it may be the best thing to happen.

"Google is making a very sound business decision," by choosing not to submit a bid for a contract to build a 1,500 square mile wireless Internet network blanketing Silicon Valley, Fearey said. The group will make its decision in about two months.

The Internet search giant isn't interested, it says, because it will focus instead on municipal Wi-Fi networks it's already planning to build; especially the one in San Francisco, where Google's working with Internet service provider EarthLink.

But the executive's sentiment does well to identify another possible reason: Google's continuing status as both novice and outsider among the coterie of companies that create municipal wireless networks.

That can't possibly help Google's chances at winning, on its own, a role in other muni wireless projects, the likes of which are surfacing so often nowadays that there's a shortage of bids.

Judging from Fearey's comments, it appears Google was a dark horse candidate anyway in his colleagues' particular municipal wireless project, which is expected to blanket California's Silicon Valley.

Why can't Google seem to join the muni Wi-Fi club and rub shoulders with HP, Cisco Systems, AT&T and other big-time tech companies? Google knows a lot about Internet search, but does it have a single employee that can do a truck roll to fix a broken access point or any of the other day-to-day nuances of the job? No, says Fearey.

"Google doesn't know anything about repairing 'buckets', or truck rolls, ... Nor do they have the staff to operate and manage a network like this," Fearey said. "They have some terrific people, but they would need feet on the ground in a lot of places, and they don't have that."

All this may have an impact on the direction Google takes to get into municipal wireless, which it has made very clear it's interested in.

For now, Google's trying an assortment of tactics. Google's going it alone in Mountain View. It also partnering with EarthLink, an Internet service provider that's all-too-familiar with the Internet's plumbing, to build a wireless Internet network covering San Francisco.

It'll have to make a choice between the two (going solo, or partnering), or so it seems.

Aside from Fearey's sentiment, there are some new growing pains in Mountain View to consider. Google recently informed the city that network coverage may not be as good as promised, or, worst-case scenario, so bad that the June launch date must be pushed back.

Although it's early on in Google's Wi-Fi adventure, it's looking a lot like partner city for the future of Google Wi-Fi. |

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