Google, EarthLink Win S.F. Wireless Deal

The pair intend to shower San Francisco with free Internet access, plus a premium version for $20 a month.

Search giant Google and Internet provider EarthLink have been tapped by the city of San Francisco to build a universal wireless network in the city.

Both the city and the two companies, which submitted a co-proposal, plan to hammer out the details of the pact over the next few weeks, and then construction will begin, according to the city of San Francisco.

The two plan an ad-supported, free Wi-Fi network for the city, along with introducing a $20-a-month service for those who want a faster connection, according to terms of the proposal.

With growing demand for wireless Internet access from consumers and the belief by politicians that citywide networks can help improve delivery of local services, a number of cities around the globe are in the process of planning or constructing new Wi-Fi networks.

For instance, in London, city officials are preparing to turn on a Wi-Fi network in the next several months, built by U.K. wireless firm The Cloud.

/zimages/2/28571.gifMunicipal Wi-Fi is taking off. Click here to read more.

Google and EarthLink beat out a field of competitors vying for the right to shower the city with Wi-Fi, which is a common wireless Internet standard built into personal computers and a growing number of other kinds of electronics.

Cisco Systems and International Business Machines also submitted bids.

Other bids include a submission from an effort known as SF Metro Connect, which is spearheaded by Cisco, IBM and wireless specialists SeaKay, as well as proposals from Communication Bridge Global, MetroFi, NextWLAN and Razortooth Communications.

The city did not provide a rationale for why it chose the Google-EarthLink bid.

"San Francisco is one of the most progressive cities in the world, and our combined offerings will stretch the possibilities of what a mobile network can do for residents, businesses, municipal government and visitors," said Donald Berryman, EarthLink executive vice president.

A Google spokesperson wasnt immediately available for comment.

EarthLinks interest in Wi-Fi fits in well with its overall strategy of using ways other than traditional ones to deliver its key product: broadband.

With the San Francisco network, EarthLink will have unwired at least four cities, and is gunning to outfit a fifth city with Wi-Fi soon.

Delivering broadband fits into Googles strategy of trying to find new revenue sources outside of search.

/zimages/2/28571.gifGoogle is building its own municipal Wi-Fi network in Mountain View, Calif. Click here to read more.

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