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Johanne Torres[October 22, 2004]

Newsom to San Franciscans: Free WiFi for Everyone!


Continuing the emerging trend of city-wide WiFi access deployments, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced his plans to make the entire 46.7 square city miles a giant WiFi hotspot. The Mayor made this announcement during his first State of the City address.

The move will surely benefit the close to one and a half million San Franciscans who would, according to Newsom’s plan, access the Web for free, wirelessly, anywhere throughout the entire city. "We will not stop until every San Franciscan has access to free wireless Internet service," Newsom declared. "These technologies will connect our residents to the skills and the jobs of the new economy. No San Franciscan should be without a computer and a broadband connection," he added.

This announcement follows Mayor Newsom’s free WiFi efforts in Union Square public park, a central shopping and tourist hub. “I am very pleased to launch this service in Union Square,” said Mayor Newsom. “ San Francisco is one of the most technically-savvy, connected cities in the world. I believe technology can improve the lives of all citizens, especially through the tremendous amount of information available on the Internet,” Newsom continued, “Now, even more citizens have convenient, free access to that information in one of San Francisco’s vibrant public areas.” 

San Francisco offers the service on a test basis in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the Department of Telecommunications (DTIS) and Information Services, the Recreation and Parks Department, UnwireNow, a San Francisco wireless service provider, and Terabeam Wireless—provider of extended range, license-free wireless data equipment. This project initiated the Mayor’s efforts when he directed DTIS to work with city departments to start developing the citywide wireless broadband policy and explore other opportunities to use wireless broadband services throughout the entire city.

Other Californian cities that have started setting up large areas of WiFi coverage include San Jose in Silicon Valley and parts of Long Beach. The city-wide WiFi access deployment initiatives probably began last month when the city of Philadelphia announced its plans to make the city the largest WiFi hotspot in the world.

Developments in WiFi technologies seem to be taking off pretty quickly. Other investment news on the hot technology include reports that SBC (quote) plans to add on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) (define - news - alert) capabilities to mobile phones carried by its joint venture with BellSouth—Cingular Wireless. The move will enable Cingular Wireless customers’ mobile phones to automatically and seamlessly switch connection from wireless to WiFi, whenever the user is near a public WiFi hotspot. The company expects to have the offering up and running by 2005 for corporate accounts, followed by service for residential customers in 2006.

Johanne Torres is the contributing editor for TMCnet.com and Internet Telephony magazine. Previously, she was the assistant editor for EContent magazine in Connecticut. She can be reached by e-mail at jtorres@tmcnet.com.

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