Google, EarthLink team on SF muni-WiFi

This is not a case of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Rather, it is a case of two are better than one. Google and EarthLink were among the seven companies submitting proposals for the San Francisco muni-WiFi project. Last week the companies said they would team up and offer the city a joint proposal. The joint proposal incorporates elements from the two companies' separate proposals: Google's plan to offer free, ad-supported WiFi, combined with an EarthLink-inspired option for consumers to buy a higher tier of broadband service for around $20. The Google/EarthLink proposal calls for free access to be delivered at 300 Kbps throughput for users citywide. The paid service tier would deliver 1 Mbps downstream and upstream. A number of competing ISPs would offer access over the network, the proposal says.

Going together makes sense for both companies. EarthLink brings to the table the momentum it has gathered from having been selected by Philadelphia and Anaheim, CA, and from being a leading candidate in several other major cities. Google's model of free, ad-supported WiFi would allow EarthLink to reach customers who would otherwise shun the company's offerings. Beyond the specific benefits to the two companies, collaboration among companies makes sense in such complex projects. Thus, the Google/EarthLink proposal calls for Tropos Networks to provide wireless mesh network equipment, while Motorola is named as provider of the backhaul equipment.

In addition to the Google/EarthLink proposals, San Francisco is considering submissions from MetroFi, Communication Bridge Global, NextWLAN, Razortooth Communications, SF Metro Connect (a partnership of SeaKay, Cisco Systems and IBM) and one other unnamed player. The panel examining the proposal will make its decision by April.

For more on the Goggle/EarthLink proposal:
- see Mark Sullivan's Light Reading report

PLUS: EarthLink submitted a proposal to the city of Boston saying it would partner with Motorola and Tropos Networks to create a WiFi network using city property such as light poles. The ISP would create free hotspots around the Hub and provide access to residents for as little as $20 per month. In addition, EarthLink would offer access for $10 a month to low-income households and would work with its partners to get discounted computers and WiFi modems, the proposal says. Those rates would undercut broadband packages provided by vendors such as Comcast and Verizon, which typically cost more than $30 a month. Article

ALSO: EarthLink and Minnetonka, MN-based U.S. Internet are the two finalists competing for the Minneapolis-St. Paul muni-WiFi contract. The companies will set up test sites in North Minneapolis and the Cedar-Riverside, Seward and Ventura Village neighborhoods. Report