Google wants to bring free Wi-Fi to SF parks

July 24, 2013 - 3:37 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google and a San Francisco supervisor announced a partnership on Wednesday to bring free Wi-Fi to 31 San Francisco parks, plazas and open spaces.

The Internet giant has agreed to provide a $600,000 grant to fund the initiative, Supervisor Mark Farrell said. Another group, the San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation, will install and maintain the network with the San Francisco Department of Technology.

"By providing free Wi-Fi in almost every corner of the city, we can further open up the doors of education, innovation, and inclusivity to every resident and visitor who takes advantage of our world-class parks, plazas, and open spaces," Farrell said in a statement.

Google already provides free Wi-Fi in Mountain View, Calif., where it's headquartered, and in a handful of cities where it has data centers. The company announced in January that it was teaming up with a New York City neighborhood business group to provide a Wi-Fi network for about a 10-block area surrounding Google's offices in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood.

Veronica Bell, a community affairs manager for Google, said in a statement the company was hopeful the city and local groups would use the free Wi-Fi to strengthen their community.

"Google is proud to provide free WiFi in San Francisco, a city where thousands of Googlers work and live," she said.

New York City has free Wi-Fi at parks, as does Paris.

San Francisco, which lies just a short drive north of Silicon Valley, has previously explored citywide Wi-Fi, but a proposed deal that also included Google fell apart amid political bickering, the San Francisco Chronicle reported (http://bit.ly/1c1t2Fk ).

The city more recently has made a push to lure technology companies and jobs.

Mayor Ed Lee applauded the free Wi-Fi announcement, saying it was an example of the type of public-private partnership that is "key to the delivery of better services for our residents."

The Google deal still has to be approved by the planning department, the Chronicle reported. The parks commission and board of supervisors also to have to weigh in.

Farrell said he expects to have the system up and running at all 31 sites by spring 2014.