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Google and City to Renew WI-FI Agreement

After five years of free WI-FI in MV, Google wants broader termination clause.

Mountain View can count on five more years of free WI-FI, courtesy of . Maybe.

Google's Minnie Ingersoll, principal of business operations, sent the a letter on Jan. 14 that stated the locally-based company's interest to renew the municipal wireless Internet agreement for another five years.

However, she added that Google wanted to change the contract to include a clause that "would allow it to terminate or transfer ownership and operation" with 180 days notice. In exchange for this, Google would be willing to give all of the equipment it has invested to the city. The current agreement only allows Google to terminate because of changes in tax law.

The Mountain View City Council approved the amendment Tuesday, without discussion, as part of the consent calendar. Vice Mayor Mike Kasperzak recused himself, because he owns Google stock.

The letter the city received said Google's next step would be to prepare the amended contract.

According to the staff report, the city entered into an agreement with Google in 2005. In 2006, free WI-FI service became available in Mountain View. The city became the first to receive Google's free service; San Francisco may be next.

"Our first deployment is meant as an R&D effort to learn more about the ease of building and supporting a wireless service offering," Ingersoll said in 2005, when she was a product manger. "We are committed to showing the world that this technology works and we would like to learn more about the costs of operations so that we can build a well-informed business model."

To most efficiently provide access to outdoor spaces specifically, Google had at the time proposed the placement of 300-400 radio transmitters, also called WI-FI nodes, on the streetlight poles to transmit a wireless signal every three blocks. Only the would have had an indoor signal.

Adjusted for inflation, in 2005 each WI-FI node would have cost Google $36 per pole per year to use, generating the city approximately $12,600. In addition, Google would have paid the estimated $3,000-$4,000 in power to Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

Now, Google confirmed there are more than 500 WI-FI nodes throughout the city, with hot spots at and the in addition to the library. This reflects the growth in usage, according to a Google spokesperson.

"Google reports an estimated 20,500 users on the system in a 30 day-period, making it one of the heaviest used WI-FI systems in the country," the city staff's report said.

But the city staff report stated that though Google plans to continue to support the service as the wireless technology changes, it also wants the "maximum flexibility to be able to respond to changes in the wireless market."

If, after entering into the new five-year agreement, Google exercised its new right to terminate or transfer the wireless service, it would help the city find a new provider.

The city generates more than $18,000 from Google for the service per year, and the strength of the signal provides WI-FI to business and residents indiscriminately across the city.

UPDATED 02/14/10 at 6:12 p.m.: A correction was made to the article. The sentence that stated that Google had not made a comment has been removed. 

John Sendejar February 24, 2011 at 06:26 PM
Is this 20k users or user sessions. The City of Corpus Christi has a similar network which provides over 35 Public Hotspots and is incurring over 50k "user sesssions" montly. The Corpus Christi mesh network reads approximately 140k water and gas utility meters and also has over 50 IP wireless cameras and growing which is used for pedestrian, traffic and public safety.
Claudia Cruz February 24, 2011 at 06:47 PM
According to the city's report that is based on Google information, the language merely said "users" not user system. However, if we keep this in perspective--Mountain View only has about 75,000 residents and in the daytime the population swells to about 100,000. So, the Googge WI-FI users represent between 20 and 25 percent of the city. Also, since Mountain View is in the heart of Silicon Valley there are hot spots everywhere in addition to the secured company networks too. In total, and I'm just estimating, at any given moment about 60 percent of the city is probably online. I think it's interesting how your network also works with water and gas meters. I'll into whether MV uses something similar. Is this for the smartmeters?

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