Has Google just increased the value of every property in SF?

Om Malik has some very interesting news:

breaking…. Google is making a bid to build a San Francisco-wide free wifi network, according to company officials. The company today filed documents in response to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s request for information for the city wide network. Google’s WiFi plans were first reported by Business 2.0 magazine as part of the GoogleNet article. The company says if its bid is approved, then it is willing to start the work on the network within weeks.

Google officials say San Francisco residents (and visitors) will enjoy a free 300 kilobits per second, always on connection anywhere in the city.

Free wi-fi across a whole city? That's a good enough reason to move to anywhere! 

So, you still think Vint Cerf's move was about policy?


Google...submitted a proposal to provide free wireless high-speed Internet access throughout the city of San Francisco, in a move that could portend future competition with Internet access providers such as telephone and cable companies.

Google, Mountain View, Calif., said it submitted its proposal in response to an August city request for information and comment. Other companies, including Internet access provider EarthLink Inc., have also submitted proposals. The San Francisco mayor's office has not yet laid out a specific timeframe for choosing companies to build and operate any wireless network, saying it will decide how to proceed based on the volume and nature of submissions it receives. But it has said that it wants the service to begin operations by sometime next year.

"As a prospective user of the service, I find this news interesting – and so are the implications: free phone calls, ubiquitous access to the Net from my Tablet PC, no need to print maps in advance,… Has someone figured out a hand-off mechanism across access points yet ?"

Great point re: free phone calls. How much could that save you per annum?

"Microsoft’s motto was a computer in every home, and, said sotto voce, running Microsoft software. Google’s is perhaps a network everywhere, and, quietly, clicking on Google ads."

Mayor Gavin Newsom had made his plans clear, so that's nothing new -- but Google bidding for it (at the last minute) is worth noting. The company already offers a few hotspots that are ad supported, so it would be interesting to see how they would handle a full city's worth of WiFi. There are various rationales for Google offering internet service, and they certainly have the cash to afford it. Whether or not Google can really handle being a "telco" remains to be seen, however.

...the shift from search engine to national ISP would require an overhaul of Google's corporate culture....Google has made bold moves in the past, but none has so significantly changed their way of doing business.

...The explosion of "Community Internet" initiatives was documented recently by the media reformers at Free Press with the release of a national database that maps more than 270 Community Internet projects across the country. The map is the most comprehensive list of such projects available. It shows projects operated by local governments, public-private partnerships, schools, non-profits and community groups. It includes wireless mesh networks, fiber to the home systems, and those using broadband over power lines.

"The word 'free' in this context is problematic. Google expects more than incurring costs from this test bed, and it'll be keeping all kinds of data about what people do on the network. (Yes, there's that Google-versus-privacy question again; it just keeps coming up.)"