Google has announced a further expansion of its plans to connect the world, with the launch of free public Wi-Fi services in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York that will become the city’s largest unified network.
The project, which Google is carrying out with local non-profit organization Chelsea Improvement Group, will bring free Wi-Fi access to places such as 14th Street Park, Chelsea Triangle and Gansevoort Plaza, with the only condition being that users must have a Google account to log in.
Altogether, the network will cover an area populated by more than 2,000 local residents, as well as schools that are attended by more than 5,000 students. However, Google admitted that some apartments in the neighborhood may not be able to receive a signal due to their architecture.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that he hoped the free Wi-Fi service would help to attract more start-ups and technology companies to a city that has already been dubbed as “Silicon Alley”.
“New York is determined to become the world’s leading digital city, and universal access to high-speed Internet is one the core building blocks of that vision,” he explained.
Google’s Wi-Fi network boasts some pretty impressive speeds – reckoned to be about 5 to 10 megabits/second, which is equal to the average broadband connected that most Americans have at home today. However, it’s not the fact that Google’s Wi-Fi is relatively fast that’s so exciting, nor the fact that it’s available for free. Rather, the whole network seems incredibly cheap to get off the ground.
Google said that the cost of setting up all the infrastructure required for the network came to just $115,000, while annual maintenance costs are expected to run to no more than $45,000 a year. Google itself stumped up two thirds of the cost, with Chelsea Improvement Company making up the balance.
“It’s not very expensive at all,” admitted Senator Charles Schumer. “The mayor and I said maybe we could get this done for all of New York. We look forward to the day when all of New York has free Wi-Fi.”
Free Wi-Fi city-wide is an exciting prospect, but it’s still probably some way off as certain challenges need to be overcome first. The biggest of these is that as Wi-Fi becomes free, internet usage grows, resulting in added maintenance costs. In addition, Google admitted that it faced numerous technological challenges setting up the network in such a densely populated area where there are numerous tall buildings in the way.
Saying that however, Google is more than motivated enough to overcome these challenges. After all, the more connected people are and the more often people are online, the more potential there is for Google to make money – meaning that it has every incentive to step up its campaign to connect the world.