Google Fiber Begins Free Public WiFi Tests in Kansas City

The free public WiFi is being tested by Google Fiber in Kansas City as a test-bed for future outdoor public WiFi projects, according to the company.

Free WiFi

Google Fiber recently began testing a free outdoor public WiFi system outside the Crown Center mixed-use development in Kansas City, Mo., as part of an experiment to build more public WiFi systems in the Kansas City area.

A Google spokesman confirmed the presence of the new experimental WiFi system after an article about the network was published April 28 by the Kansas City Business Journal. The KCBJ report said that the network at the Crown Center, an 85-acre mixed-use development with a shopping center, office space, several hotels and a famous fountain, is already up and running in an outdoor plaza at the complex.

In response to an email inquiry from eWEEK, the Google spokeswoman said the WiFi testing began a few weeks ago and is still very much in the early stages of testing. "We want to deliver great WiFi outside, which is really hard to do. So we're using this test as an opportunity to try and make our network fast and consistent," she wrote.

For users at the busy shopping, entertainment and office complex, that means that service disruptions could occur as Google works to refine and improve the free services, the spokesman said. "So over the next few months, you might experience some hiccups or outages in service, as we work to make the network fast and consistent," she wrote. "We appreciate your patience and feedback as we test this network and make it better."

Asked when additional phases and expansions of the Kansas City free public WiFi system could come, the spokesman declined to give a timeline. "In the future, we'd like to be able to launch more WiFi zones throughout Kansas City," she wrote. "But for now, we're focused on this one test WiFi zone in the Crown Center area."

The Google Fiber team began with the WiFi deployment in the Crown Center area because it's a nonresidential area where people congregate and because Google's Fiber network has already been installed in the area, according to Google.

Earlier this month, Google began contacting local leaders in Kansas City and some 34 other U.S. cities to gauge their interest in receiving free public WiFi services as part of the Google Fiber program, according to an eWEEK report. Google Fiber raised that possibility in February 2014 when it released a "checklist" for communities that would like to have Google Fiber service come to their towns. In that checklist, Google Fiber said it was also "exploring the possibility of deploying WiFi in future Google Fiber cities. Requirements related to WiFi are not included in this checklist, but we will be discussing our WiFi plans and related requirements with your city as we move forward with your city during this planning process."

Google Fiber is now moving that idea further along, by raising it directly in letters to 34 cities that are being considered for Fiber. Google earlier told eWEEK that the company didn't have any specific plans to announce right now about the WiFi deployments. The Kansas City deployment now ends that speculation.