Mountain View Voice

News - October 4, 2013

City Hall to switch off Google WiFi

by Daniel DeBolt

Perhaps another sign that Google's free WiFi system in Mountain View is on its last legs, city officials are getting ready to switch off Google's system inside city buildings and replace it with a WiFi system costing $130,000 over the next five years.

The system that was a gift to the city from Google in 2006, providing free internet access from hundreds of light-pole mounted nodes and in city buildings. Now, even inside the city's library and inside City Hall, users say the WiFi network hasn't been fully functional for months.

"We started to get a lot of complaints," said Steve Rodriguez, the city's IT manager. "We generally get them in the library. From what I can tell it's pretty much not working anymore. We get asked a lot, 'What is going on with the Google wireless?'" Rodriguez's response? "I don't know."

Last Tuesday the connection appeared to be working in the library, but staff said they receive at least one or two complaints every day from patrons not able to log on, or who log on and find a slow or spotty connection. "The service is just not cutting it," said one library staffer, who said service became noticeably poor in January.

The city is switching to a WiFi network from Smart Wave technologies, taking the opportunity to piggy back on a contract Smart Wave won from the City of San Jose, a practice which saved the city from being required to conduct its own bidding process, Rodriguez said.

"It's just a service that needs to be addressed," Rodriguez said. "Being where we are, the expectation is pretty high that we at least have something, especially in the library."

The new WiFi system — limited to city buildings — is expected to be functional in the library by November, shortly followed by a system in City Hall, the Community Center at Rengstorff Park, the Senior Center, the Teen Center, the Center for Performing Arts and Michaels at Shoreline, including it's outdoor patio. There's also a possibility of it working outside in Civic Center Plaza, Rodriguez said.

In July Google promised an announcement about the future of its free network after users complained at the start of the year about spotty and nonexistent connections from its nodes, mounted on over 500 light poles around the city, providing those with special signal repeater devices free home internet. The company has said increased demands for bandwidth from increased use of sites like Netflix and Hulu have overwhelmed the original infrastructure. Google said this week that an announcement on Google WiFi's was still coming, but did not provide any new information by press time.

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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