Thanks to a grant from high tech giant Google, residents of and visitors to San Francisco can now jump on a new municipal wifi network that offers free access in more than 30 public parks, plazas and recreation areas. City officials (and those of us at CheapInternet.com) hope this is just the beginning of something much bigger.
“Wi-Fi in our city’s parks is another step toward a larger vision of connectivity for our City as a whole,” a statement from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said, “bridging the digital divide and ensuring that our diverse communities have access to innovation.”
Who will benefit most from San Francisco’s free wifi network? Rodney Chin, Executive Director of the Buchanan YMCA says it will prove invaluable to low-income students who need internet access for their school assignments, but were forced to live without it due to financial circumstances. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Chin said, “It’s a step toward leveling the playing field.”
It’s nice to have rich friends
Of course, Google has a vested interest in the city of San Francisco because so many of it’s employees live in the City by the Bay — so many of them, in fact, that Google operates its own bus fleet that eases the commute between the city and the company’s Mountain View headquarters.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Google wrote the city a check for approximately $600,000 to help the it buy the necessary wifi gear, build out the network, and maintain it for up to two years.
“This network will make the web more accessible than ever for thousands of our neighbor — getting online is as easy as heading to the local park,” Rebecca Prozan, Google’s public policy and government affairs manager, said.
Where to find free wifi
Where can residents and visitors find the new network’s free wifi signals? Union Square, Balboa Park, Alamo Square and Children’s Tenderloin Rec Center are a few of the places where anyone can log on. It’s easy, too. All you have to do is select the “#sfwifi” wifi network on your laptop, tablet, or smart phone when it’s available.
Many areas in San Francisco already had areas where residents and visitors could find free wifi before the introduction of the new Google network. But accessibility was far from perfect. Signals were usually found in parks, hospitals or libraries or offered within commercial establishments such as coffee shops and restaurants. Of course, free wifi was previously accessible in parts of City Hall, in all public libraries, at San Francisco International Airport and along major portions of Market Street.
San Francisco officials have long been talking about building a free wifi network that would cover the entire city, but politicians are usually long on talk and short on action and this was no exception. They’ve been talking about it for seven years and would probably be talking about it for another seven years if Google hadn’t opened its checkbook.
A perfect partnership
This isn’t Google’s only move toward offering free municipal wifi networks. The company got lots of headlines for rolling out New York City’s biggest free public wifi network in the Chelsea neighborhood surrounding its east coast headquarters.
CheapInternet.com has long supported this kind of partnership between corporations and government entities. They bring sorely needed internet resources to the greatest number of people in the simplest, most cost-effective way possible.
Our congratulations to the folks at Google and the folks in San Francisco’s City Hall.