Google Looking to Provide WiFi in Google Fiber Cities

Google is exploring the idea of providing WiFi services in cities that are being eyed for its Google Fiber high-speed Internet service, carrying out plans it first unveiled in February.

Google Fiber Cities

Google Fiber ultra-high-speed Internet access may not be the only new technology service being considered by the company for some 34 U.S. cities. Google also may be considering bringing WiFi service to the cities on its list of areas being considered for Google Fiber.

Google Fiber first raised that possibility back 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 Wi-Fi in future Google Fiber cities. Requirements related to Wi-Fi are not included in this checklist, but we will be discussing our Wi-Fi 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 the 34 cities that are being considered for Fiber, according to an April 24 report by IDG News Service. Specific details about the possibility were not released, according to the report.

In an email response to eWEEK, a Google spokeswoman confirmed that the previously announced WiFi possibilities will be explored. "We'd love to be able to bring outdoor Wi-Fi access to all of our Fiber cities, although we don't have any specific plans to announce right now," the spokeswoman said.

The Google letters to the 34 cities ask for detailed information about the communities and give a May 1 deadline for replies, according to the IDGNS story. The letters seek lists of property addresses and building types as well as geospatial data files containing information on streets, boundaries, rights of way, manholes, utility poles, zoning types and more, the story reports. Also sought is information on where Google could build and maintain utility huts that would house the equipment for Fiber services.

After the information is received by Google, the company will then perform a detailed study to see if the projects will move forward, the report said. In the letters, Google said it hopes to have updates on which cities will get Fiber by the end of the year, the story said.

Google announced its plans to consider 34 additional U.S. cities in nine metro areas for Fiber service back in February 2014. The 34 additional communities—which are clustered around the Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; San Antonio; Salt Lake City; and San Jose, Calif., metro areas—were invited to work with Google Fiber to see if they are interested in having the Gigabit-speed cable TV and Internet services brought to their communities for new subscribers. The specific communities within these metro areas that will actually get Google Fiber services will be chosen and announced over the next year.

Not all of the 34 communities that will now be in discussions with Google for Fiber service will ultimately get it in this round, Google announced. The issues that will impact those decisions include legal, construction, permitting, infrastructure and other local matters that have to be addressed when building a complex fiber system, according to the company.

Google Fiber's ultra-high-speed Internet and cable television services debuted in Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., in the fall of 2012, according to an earlier eWEEK report. In April 2013, Google announced that it would bring the service to Provo, Utah, just eight days after it unveiled plans to bring Google Fiber to Austin, Texas. The Provo project was the third U.S. community to be slated for Fiber service so far. Other cities, including Prairie Village, Kan., Mission Hills, Kan., and Roeland Park, Kan., have also approved service plans for Google Fiber.

Google has certainly been involved in providing WiFi previously. In December 2013, the company announced plans to build and provide a free public outdoor WiFi service for some 80,000 residents in New York City's Harlem neighborhood under an initiative announced by the city. The project will cover some 95 blocks in Harlem and is being paid for by a donation from the Fuhrman Family Foundation. There will be no cost to users for the services, which are initially being funded for five years.

In August 2013, Google unveiled plans to install free WiFi inside some 7,000 company-owned Starbucks stores to replace free services that had been previously provided by AT&T. Starbucks stores located in communities that have super-high-speed Google Fiber service will get in-store WiFi connections that are even faster—up to 100 times that of existing speeds.

In July, Google also presented the city of San Francisco with a $600,000 grant to build a WiFi network that will provide free WiFi throughout the city's 31 parks and open spaces. The grant will cover the cost of needed equipment, installation and maintenance of the system for two years. All 31 sites are expected to be fully completed and ready for use this spring.

Google already has created a free WiFi network in New York's Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan, near its New York offices, back in January 2013. The system encapsulated the first Google-served neighborhood in Manhattan and at the time was slated to be the largest contiguous WiFi network in New York City, according to Google.