After two years, San Francisco is closer to free WiFi

Two years after proposing a plan to unwire San Francisco with free muni-WiFi, Mayor Gavin Newsom may finally see the plan come to fruition, with some modifications. In May, Newsom voiced his frustration that plans to have the city WiFi-enabled were put on hold again by the board of supervisors. He lamented that San Francisco could become one of the last cities in the U.S. to have WiFi.

Newsom's administration had negotiated a contract with Earthlink and Google to provide the network. The duo would pay the city $2 million over four years in exchange for building and operating the network. But some members of the board of supervisors didn't like the contract and wanted the city to consider running its own WiFi network. Aaron Peskin, president of the board, said he studied the contract and decided it would benefit the city--with some significant changes to the contract. Peskin said he is in talks with officials at EarthLink about the proposed amendments.

Peskin's proposals include:

  • Speeding up the connection for those receiving WiFi for free. Under Newsom's original plan, those customers would be connected at a slower rate of 300 Kbps, while paid subscribers would get 1 Mbps. Peskin believes the speed for free users should be increased to 500 Kbps.
  • Making sure the network works in all parts of the city, especially in the southeast sector where a high percentage of residents lack Internet access.
  • Getting more money from Earthlink. Peskin said he wants to make sure the city is compensated for letting Earthlink use the city's poles. He also wants the 16-year contract Newsom has negotiated to be shortened to eight years.

For more about the proposed WiFi contract modifications:
- read this article from the San Francisco Chronicle