New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Charles Schumer, and Google Chief Information Officer Ben Fried announced that it will provide free wi-fi service to Chelsea, a New York City neighborhood where Google has its local headquarters. The Google wi-fi service is free to residents and tourists while outdoors with indoor coverage for public housing units.
The announcement comes at a time when Google’s broadband offerings are being closely tracked by both citizens and politicians eager for tech infrastructure upgrades. The company recently brought high-speed fiber-optic Internet coverage to the Kansas City area, capable of download speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second. That’s about 200 times faster than your average home broadband connection.
Google’s Wi-Fi has impressive speeds of its own — about 5 to 10 Megabits per second, or around the same as a typical home Internet connection. But Ben Fried, Google’s chief information officer, said in unequivocal terms that the Wi-Fi offering is not a harbinger of bigger things to come for New Yorkers.
Bloomberg noted that even as the cost of wireless communications goes down, its usage is soaring, which adds to the overall cost of maintaining the networks. New York currently has free Wi-Fi in 20 parks across its five boroughs, but this is the first time such a large-scale, public Wi-Fi project has been attempted in a densely populated urban area. Google said it faced geographic and technological challenges in building the network, including the problem of sending signals across a wide area with very tall buildings in the way.
Read more in the announcement from CNN Money.