The long-promised dream of a blanket of free Wi-Fi covering San Francisco will soon become a reality--at least for a small portion of the city.
Staring this December, the city's Department of Technology will be installing wireless hotspots along the Market Street corridor. The network will be free to access and available to anyone with a Wi-Fi-compatible computer or mobile device.
"We want anybody walking up and down the street, sitting in the park or having a cup of coffee, to be able to hop onto the network and use it," San Francisco's Chief Information Officer Jon Walton told the San Francisco Chronicle "Free public Wi-Fi is an idea that will happen...It's a question of when, not if."
In 2006, Mayor Gavin Newsom attempted to strike a deal with Google and Earthlink to create a Wi-Fi network covering all of the city. The plan involved a two-tiered structure, where customers could pay for a faster connection or use a slower, ad-supported version. The deal was criticized for its lack of transparency and was subsequently caught in a tangle of bureaucratic infighting between Newsom and the Board of Supervisors. However, at the end of the day, it was Earthlink's shaky financial situation that eventually scuttled the plan.
After the Google/Earthlink deal fell though, the city decided to take a different track to reaching its goal of providing internet access to every San Franciscan. The San Francisco Examiner reports:
For now, The City plans to take a more piecemeal approach to expanding free access in public spaces like parks and libraries. According to the Department of Technology, Wi-Fi sites under development include myriad public library branches, Duboce Park and the Cortland Avenue commercial corridor in Bernal Heights, all using the existing city-owned 110 miles of fiber optic cables.
The Market Street network, which is projected to be completed by early next Spring, will be called "SFGov_Free_WiFi". If you're on Market Street and want to surf the web at the city's expense, that's the network to use.