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Editorial: Google makes amends for failing WiFi

If ever there was a way into this tech-driven city's heart, the gift of lightning-fast Internet connections has to be high on the list, and Google knows it. That undoubtedly is why Mountain View's signature company made a formal offer last week to provide ultra-fast free wireless Internet along the Castro Street corridor and promised to install a network of even faster connections under the city's neighborhood streets.

All of this was promised in an announcement by Google and City Manager Dan Rich that, if carried out, will install miles of fiber-optic cable throughout the city's 12 square miles. In addition, Google also said it will provide the city a $500,000-grant to fund technology that is accessible to the public, presumably to make up for the funds the city spent recently to install WiFi at City Hall. The fiber-optic cable will allow data to travel at the speed of light, or in technical terms, 1,024 megabits (1 gigabit) per second, which is said to be 100 times faster than average and is fast enough to download an entire movie in less than two minutes.

The entire package would cost the company millions of dollars and make Mountain View one of 34 cities nationwide selected as test locations for Google fiber. Other California cities include Palo Alto, San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara. The company's chief financial officer said that the fiber initiative is "not a hobby" for Google, which he thinks will be profitable. In Provo, Utah and Kansas City, sites of the initial roll-out, speeds of 1 gigabit per second costs $70 a month, while current average broadband speed is free, although a one-time "construction fee" can be up to $300.

As far as inexpensive Internet connections go, such a system would replace the now woefully inadequate WiFi rolled out with much fanfare by Google in 2006, which for its time was a remarkable network that provided free WiFi service to most Mountain View neighborhoods. The line-of-sight signal came from 500 WiFi nodes installed on city-owned light poles, creating a system that was designed to be available throughout the city. Although residents needed to install amplifiers to boost the signal to bring it indoors, the number of unique users grew to 25,000 a month in 2012, when the service began to have serious issues.

Google claimed that the Internet outgrew the system, due largely to streaming movies and other major download pressures. As Google's gift began to turn sour, residents complained of spotty or nonexistent service. Efforts by the company to make repairs did not help and in recent years the system proved to be more of a liability for Google than the gift the company had hoped it would be.

Now the plan is to quickly install a new WiFi system downtown and soon after, phase out the old WiFi service, after giving 60 days' notice to its remaining customers. Google Fiber is more than a year away, so in some parts of Mountain View residents will have to go back to providing their own WiFi service with providers like AT&T and Comcast.

Such a fiber network will be a force for other Internet service providers to contend with, or be left in the dust. Google may have started out slowly with WiFi nodes mounted on light poles, but if the company's plans are realized, it could wind up bringing Mountain View the fastest access to the Internet available anywhere in the country.

Tom Gibboney

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Will Google Clean Up
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 4, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Will Google take down and clean up the old dying equipment, or will we have to look at that mess and be reminded of the original mess?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Martin Omander
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 4, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Can't wait to get fast fiber to my house! We sorely need more competition. Right now only one company can deliver Internet faster than dial-up to my home, so they can set whatever price and speed they want.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Chronic complainer
a resident of Slater
on Mar 4, 2014 at 4:54 pm

I am outraged that the Google Wifi doesn't work. I paid nothing for the service and Google actually paid the city for the ability to provide the free service but I had expectations that I could stream multiple HD movies to my living room and bedroom simultaneously.

Now they expect me to actually pay for ineternet access?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jay Park
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 5, 2014 at 6:00 pm

The correct title of this op-ed piece is "Google plans to make amends for failing WiFi." They have not made any amends yet, only hollow promises which they have repeatedly done before.

If Google wants to talk the talk, they have to walk the walk, and they haven't done any walking yet.

They say they are bringing improved WiFi to downtown Mountain View. *WE THE PEOPLE* will be the judge of that, not Google, not some op-ed writer for the Mountain View Voice.

Don't confuse promises with actions.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Jay Park
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 5, 2014 at 8:48 pm

It should be clearly noted that Tom Gibboney is the publisher of Embarcadero Media, the parent company of the Mountain View Voice, Palo Alto Online, and Los Altos Almanac.

Whether or not this media executive is molly-coddling to the largest employer of those three towns (MV/PA/LA) is something other readers will have to judge for themselves, however I just wanted to bring light to the provenance of this editorial.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by AllYouCanEat
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Mar 7, 2014 at 9:40 am

Wake up! Google is just trying to lock out the competition until they decide what they want to do... Or not do.

And really, what good is wifi on Castro Street gonna do for the community as a whole?


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