San Francisco gives its main street free Wi-Fi, eyes citywide service

The outdoor network was built using donated equipment from Ruckus Wireless

By , IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

That reflects one of the lessons learned from San Francisco's earlier flirtation with citywide Wi-Fi, said Ron Vinson, the chief marketing officer of the city's department of technology. Critics called the Earthlink-Google project a city giveaway to favored corporations. The absence of sign-in requirements should help to ease other past concerns about user privacy, he said.

The city might also look for sponsors to lend their brands to the network, Touitou said. The citywide system might be advertised as "powered by" a certain entity, but that sponsor wouldn't necessarily be involved in the network or service, he said.

San Francisco's Wi-Fi evangelists still have social motivations in mind. Since the days of the Earthlink-Google project, the city has operated free Wi-Fi for broadband service in public housing projects, Vinson said. Another project, funded through a donation from Google, is intended to light up the city's parks.

Touitou sees connectivity as a basic right of citizens. But there are dollars and cents involved, too. Increased broadband penetration has been shown to increase countries' gross domestic products, Touitou said. "If you don't take action to increase the broadband penetration, it's counterproductive to our economic development."

"It's a normal municipal service, as far as I'm concerned," he said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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