Google is teaming up with Earthlink in a bid to provide two-tier wireless to all of San Francisco. The plan would offer free 300 Kbps access from Google with ads or 1Mbps access from Earthlink for about $20 a month.
The partnership, represents the first time that Google has acknowledged it wants help in its quest to provide free wireless, or Wi-Fi, service throughout San Francisco, where the hills could make reliable Internet connections more difficult.
Google, which runs the Internet's leading search engine, and EarthLink, a major Internet service provider, had been bidding against each other but recently decided it made more sense to team up.
Under the partnership, revealed late Tuesday night, EarthLink would pay for most of the projected $15 million cost to build and maintain San Francisco's Wi-Fi network over 10 years, said Don Berryman, EarthLink's president of municipal networks.
EarthLink would recover some of its expenses by charging about $20 per month for Internet access about 20 times faster than dial-up service, Berryman said during a Wednesday interview. Google's free Wi-Fi alternative would be about five to six times quicker than dial-up.
EarthLink has won a similar 10-year contract to provide Wi-Fi coverage to Philadelphia. There, EarthLink will sell the service wholesale to Internet service providers for $9 per user per month.
The other bidders: Communication Bridge Global; NextWLAN; Razortooth Communications LLP; MetroFi and SF Metro Connect, a partnership that includes SeaKay, Cisco Systems Inc. and IBM Corp.And don't forget:
The San Francisco bid has spurred speculation that Google some day hopes to build a national Wi-Fi network to ensure more people have Internet access so they can view the moneymaking ads distributed by the company's search engine. Online advertising accounted for the bulk of Google's $1.5 billion profit last year.
Under Google's San Francisco proposal, the free Wi-Fi access will be financed by ads.
Google so far has stressed that it's only interested in building large Wi-Fi networks in San Francisco and about 35 miles to the south in Mountain View, where the company's headquarters is located. Google hopes to launch the Mountain View network in June.