Google is everywhere in headquarters town
By Eric Auchard
Google Inc. has turned the Silicon Valley town where it is
headquartered into a showcase for the advantages of free, citywide
wireless Internet access, in what might be called Google everywhere.
The Web search leader said on Tuesday that it is now making a
Google-supported wireless Internet network generally available to the
72,000 residents of Mountain View, California, along with the town's
office workers, daily visitors and the more than 1,000 Microsoft Corp.
employees at the Google rival's 24-acre Mountain View campus.
Not just local laptop computer owners, but users of any other Wi-Fi
device or telephone simply need to seek out nearby wireless networks
and pick the "Google Wi-Fi" option. Once the device's browser window
opens a Google log-on page appears.
Wireless customers with Google e-mail, instant messaging or home page
accounts can sign in using with their normal passwords. Those wishing
to remain anonymous can create a temporary user name and sign in to a
default Google home page featuring local information on Mountain View
and the surrounding region.
Google says it sees a spike in usage of its search and advertising
services wherever broadband usage spreads. By offering wireless access
inside homes, offices, schools and around town, Google expects further
Chris Sacca, Google's head of special initiatives, said the main
purpose of his company backing local Wi-Fi access has been to clear
the way for broadband entrepreneurs and overcome legal roadblocks by
established telephone and cable TV providers.
"We want to inspire these networks to be built," Sacca said of
Google's efforts to back the more than 300 Internet service providers
and network equipment makers seeking to build high-speed municipal
Wi-Fi networks in the United States.
With Google's support, the debate over municipal Wi-Fi has been
transformed over the past year, as dozens of U.S. cities from
Philadelphia to Portland, Oregon have forged ahead with
projects. Major telecom carriers such as AT&T Inc. have dropped
lawsuits and bid to participate in some projects.
"We wanted to throw our hat in the ring and show the promise of these
broadband networks," Sacca said of the aim of offering wireless
access. "We wanted to make it very unpopular for anyone to oppose the
promise of these networks," he said.
Google is also part of a bid to offer Wi-Fi access in San
Francisco. But Sacca emphasized that lead partner Earthlink Inc. is in
charge of negotiating the deal with San Francisco's city
government. Google's Wi-Fi ambitions involve only the two cities, the
Google official underscored.
"Building ISPs is not a very scalable business for us," Sacca said in
an interview, adding that Google prefers to focus on search,
advertising and creating new Web software and services. "I think
Google is going to depend on really healthy relationships with ISPs to
Google is prepared to offer community training courses through San
Francisco's 11 political districts. Similar training programs have
attracted hundreds of participants in Mountain View, with as many as
750 at one session, he said.
Any effort to commercialize the Mountain View Wi-Fi service -- perhaps
by placing advertising on Web pages viewed over Google Wi-Fi -- will
come later, if at all, Sacca said.
"We like to build products that solve users' problems," Sacca said.
"There is always an opportunity to go ahead and monetize it later," he
said, using the jargon for making Web pages pay for themselves through
selling ads or other efforts.
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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