Google Launches Free WiFi Network in a NYC Neighborhood

The free outdoor WiFi network will serve hundreds of thousands of users annually in the Chelsea section of New York City.

Google is bringing a free outdoor WiFi network to the southwest section of the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan, where Google has its New York headquarters.

The services were announced Jan. 8 during a press conference at Google's offices, and are being offered in partnership with a local nonprofit neighborhood group, The Chelsea Improvement Co.

"Google is proud to provide free WiFi in the neighborhood we have called home for over six years," Ben Fried, Google's CIO, said in a statement. "This network will not only be a resource for the 2,000-plus residents of the Fulton Houses [public housing buildings], it will also serve the 5,000-plus student population of Chelsea as well as the hundreds of workers, retail customers and tourists who visit our neighborhood every day."

The WiFi network will also serve several local public schools, according to Fried.

The system will encapsulate the first Google-served neighborhood in Manhattan and will be the largest contiguous WiFi network in New York City, according to Google.

The outdoor service area stretches roughly between Gansevoort Street and 19th Street from Eighth Avenue to the West Side Highway. It also includes the neighborhood's public spaces, such as the Chelsea Triangle, 14th Street Park and Gansevoort Plaza.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg lauded the move, which was accomplished with assistance from the city's IT department.

"New York is determined to become the world's leading digital city, and universal access to high-speed Internet is one the core building blocks of that vision," Bloomberg said in a statement. "Thanks to Google, free WiFi across this part of Chelsea takes us another step closer to that goal."

This isn't Google's first foray into WiFi in New York City.

Last summer, Google partnered with Boingo Wireless to offer free WiFi in some 200 hotspots around the city as a promotion for the Google Offers service, which gives consumers special, targeted merchandise and service offerings on their mobile devices, according to a report from AdWeek. The promotion ran from June through Sept. 7, 2012.

Unconfirmed Reports

Before the latest Google announcement was made, a flurry of unconfirmed Internet reports speculating about its topic incorrectly stated that the company would likely unveil a plan to roll out its nascent Google Fiber cable television and Internet services in New York City.

The rumors were fueled by a recent job posting from Google, which is looking for a sales representative for Google Fiber in New York City. The posting seeks a qualified candidate to be "part of a team to evangelize Google Fiber services to small and medium business and multi-unit dwellings," according to the job posting. "As a Fiber Sales Representative you will support plan for our approach in the market including multi-unit dwellings, small business, restaurants and hotels."

Asked about the job posting, a Google spokesman told eWEEK that there are no plans to bring Google Fiber to New York at this time. The company hires many people for many positions in its New York headquarters, the spokesman said, so the move is not an unusual development.

At the same time, it is peculiar that the company would hire someone for such a position and not at least have some kind of plans to make a move in that area, based on the job description in the posting.

Google has been unveiling Google Fiber in sections of Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kansas, since last fall in the first deployments of a system that the company hopes will go national in the future.

In December, Google announced that five more neighborhoods in Kansas City will be getting its fiber services.

Installation of the fiber network in the Kansas City area began in February 2012, when the laying of fiber cable got under way.

Pricing for Google Fiber in Kansas City starts at $70 per month for 1Gbit Internet access alone, up to $120 per month for 1Gbit Internet access as well as Google Fiber TV. The Google TV package also includes a Nexus 7 tablet that can be used as a remote control. One terabyte of cloud storage is included with the Internet-only package, while 2TB of DVR storage is included with the TV/Internet package. Residents will also be eligible for free Internet access at a lower speed under the sign-up program, according to Google.