Google has made a $600,000 gift to the city of San Francisco in the form of providing free WiFi to 31 parks, playgrounds, plazas and recreation centers. Under the agreement, Google will install the system starting in November and it should be complete by April of 2014. The no-strings-attached deal is intended to empower citizens and community groups and will serve as a pilot for a future, city-wide version.
Attempts at this have been made before, most notably six years ago, but none of the players involved could agree on the terms of the contract. However it wasn’t to be, in part because of the public and officials’ fears that the companies would make undue profit. The current initiative, headed by Supervisor Mark Farrell along with with SF’s Department Of Technology and Ron Conway’s sf.citi, includes no plan for Google to make money. The terms of the contract are for the next two years. After that it will be up to the city to find funding from local businesses and tech partners for continuing support.
This move by is not without precedent. Google has paid for limited wireless networks in neighborhoods of New York and Boston, and also set up a paid fiber-optic network in Kansas City.
San Francisco’s Mayor Lee stated, “We are behind. I call us the innovation capital of the world but we need to catch up. This is where the relationship with the private sector is so important to us” and that the program will “Bridge not only the digital divide but bring the innovative spirit to every community in San Francisco.”
Hard to believe, but a lot of the recreation centers are still on dial-up connections. This should go a long way to improving their infrastructure. This will also help residents who are at a disadvantage because they proper lack access to the internet, increasing their education, voice in civic affairs, and to gain the tools necessary to better their socioeconomic standing.
Here’s the full list of public areas gaining free Wi-Fi in San Francisco, via the SF Chronicle:
Alamo Square, Balboa Park, Bernal Heights Recreation Center, Boeddeker Park, Chinese Recreation Center, Civic Center Plaza, Corona Heights, Crocker Amazon Playground, Duboce Park, Eureka Valley Recreation Center, Gene Friend Recreation Center, Hamilton Recreation Center, Huntington Park, Joseph Lee Recreation Center, Justin Herman Plaza, Margaret S. Hayward Playground, Marina Green, Minnie and Lovie Ward Recreation Center, Mission Dolores Park, Mission Recreation Center, Palega Playground, Portsmouth Square, Richmond Recreation Center, St. Mary’s Recreation Center, St. Mary’s Square, Sue Bierman Park, Sunnyside Playground, Sunset Playground, Tenderloin Recreation Center, Upper Noe Recreation Center, Washington Square