Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is delivering free public Wi-Fi service in Manhattan's southwest Chelsea neighborhood where Google's second-largest office, sometimes referred to as Googleplex East, is located.
Google collaborated with nonprofit neighborhood redevelopment corporation The Chelsea Improvement Company on the project, which will become the first wired neighborhood in Manhattan and the largest contiguous Wi-Fi network in New York City.
The Wi-Fi network was designed and installed by Sky-Packets. The New York mayor's office and the city's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications also participated on the project.
More than 3,000 employees in Google's Chelsea headquarters will benefit from the extensive and primarily outdoor Wi-Fi network, which will also be made available for use at the Fulton Houses public housing complex as well as several public schools.
"Google is proud to provide free Wi-Fi in the neighborhood we have called home for over six years. This network will not only be a resource for the 2,000+ residents of the Fulton Houses, it will also serve the 5,000+ student population of Chelsea as well as the hundreds of workers, retail customers and tourists who visit our neighborhood every day," said Ben Fried, Google CIO.
The growing availability of free public Wi-Fi networks in cities such as New York could be something of a two-edged sword for mobile operators, many of whom encourage Wi-Fi offloading to ease data congestion on their cellular networks.
"In a city of more than 8.2 million people, congestion on the Wi-Fi network is also important to manage since a bad connection experience reflects poorly on mobile operators even when it's not their network to blame," said Carla Fitzgerald, vice president of marketing at Smith Micro Software, a vendor of connectivity management solutions. She suggested mobile operators should ensure their subscribers can connect automatically to the best network available rather than just the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot.
New York is becoming something of a proving ground for free public Wi-Fi. In June 2012, Google began sponsoring free and discounted Boingo Wireless Wi-Fi in six New York subway stations and more than 200 Manhattan hot zones. In August that sponsorship expanded to malls and airports in New York as well as Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
The city of New York in July began turning its payphones into free, public Wi-Fi hotspots via an arrangement with Van Wagner Communications, owner of many of New York City's payphones.
In addition, AT&T (NYSE:T) embarked on a five-year initiative in June 2011 to provide free Wi-Fi service at 26 locations in 20 New York City parks across the five boroughs.
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