Google continues shotgun public Wi-Fi initiatives

Included among Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) many wireless broadband initiatives are efforts to enable free, public Wi-Fi near its major offices and data centers, and the company is continuing its shotgun efforts with a series of here-and-there initiatives.

Most recently, Google provided a $165,040 grant to Douglassville, Ga., enabling the city to purchase and install 31 Wi-Fi nodes spread around downtown, covering over 60 acres, said the Douglas County Sentinel. Network Utility Force will maintain the network, which was announced in late May.

Google is a major employer in the area, with some 300 workers at its data center in nearby Lithia Springs, Ga.

Similarly, Google in January rolled out 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. In that case, the company collaborated with a nonprofit neighborhood redevelopment corporation on the project, designed to become the first wired neighborhood in Manhattan and the largest contiguous Wi-Fi network in New York City.

Around the same time, but getting less national publicity, Google provided a $200,000 grant to Pryor, Okla., for creation of a free public Wi-Fi network in that city's downtown area. Google opened a data center in Mayes County, Okla., where Pryor is located, in late 2011. Tulsa-based Techsico was charged with installing and maintaining the Pryor Wi-Fi network, according to Oklahoma's NewsOn6.

Also in January, Google announced it would provide an additional $50,000 grant to expand an existing free, public Wi-Fi service in Council Bluffs, Iowa, home of yet another Google data center. The network was built with an initial $154,462 Google grant.

In February, The Dalles, Ore., home of--you guessed it--a Google data center, received $50,000 to expand its existing free, public Wi-Fi network. That network was set up in 2011 with $130,000 from Google and $17,000 from QLife, which represents multiple public agencies in The Dalles, according to the Oregonian, which noted QLife's total investment is now $70,000.

Though the communities getting Google grants for public Wi-Fi deployments are no doubt appreciative, there are some questions regarding Google's track record when it comes to providing free, public Wi-Fi network, at least when the company itself is responsible for maintaining the network.

The public Wi-Fi network that the company deployed in its hometown of Mountain View, Calif., more than six years ago is increasingly unusable, according to locals. Google has said the network "wasn't built to support the current usage," but some locals now allege equipment failures and lack of maintenance are at the core of the network's problems.

For more:
- see this Broadband Reports article
- see this MuniWireless article

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