San Francisco Rolls Out Three Miles of Free Wi-Fi Access

After AT&T failed to deliver on a deal to bring Wi-Fi to San Francisco's Market Street – the busiest and most economically diverse area of the metropolis, according to city leaders – local politicians took matters into their own hands.

The mayor's office for the city of San Francisco announced today that it has launched free wireless Internet on the heavily trafficked part of Market Street, something it has been aiming to do throughout the entire city for years. Last year San Francisco had a tentative agreement with AT&T to handle this task, but it didn't happen. Prior to that it had a deal with EarthLink to handle the task but that fell through too. Finally the city decided that it had to handle the task itself.

"It was simpler, faster, better to do it on our own," said Marc Touitou, who was appointed by Mayor Edwin Lee as the city's chief information officer back in April. "The quality is higher with the technical design by the Department of Technology. We wanted high capacity… We wanted it to be cool—no strings attached, no ads."

Touitou's team was responsible for running a fiber-optic cable along Market Street and then connecting it to network equipment set up on traffic lights and other city-owned fixtures. The network was brought online in stages over the past several months quietly, and it was up and running late Friday under the network name _San_Francisco_Free_WiFi.

“Nearly a quarter-million people walk down Market Street every day, and now they will be able to connect to the Internet through our free public Wi-Fi,” Mayor Lee said in an announcement.

This cost the city $500,000, but it had some help from several companies in the area to keep the cost down: hardware donations from Ruckus Wireless and Internet access contributed by Layer42 Networks helped do just that.

San Francisco is simply expanding the free Wi-Fi programs it already has at places like the San Francisco International Airport, public housing developments, and parts of City Hall.

San Francisco is pretty lucky because it resides in a state where lawmakers in the Assembly aren't passing bills to keep municipalities from creating their own networks. Several states have passed laws that keep local municipalities from building out broadband networks – even though the local service providers aren't even up to national standards. Most of this is due to heavy spending by lobbyist groups representing the Telco industries…

Source: Ars Technica

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