Thursday, May 1, 2014

City Negotiates Public Wi-Fi In Google Fiber Deal

Posted By on Thu, May 1, 2014 at 11:47 AM

In their negotiations to bring Google’s high-speed fiber optic network to San Antonio, City officials are in talks with the Internet giant to possibly grant wi-fi access to outdoor public areas.

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In February, Castro and city officials announced SA could be home to the Google Fiber network.

“We are planning on doing whatever we need to do to help (Google) bring this service to San Antonio,” Hugh Miller, SA’s chief technology officer told the San Antonio Express-News. “We provide some type of public access to some parks, the airport and libraries now and if they want to augment that, it is a great option for us and for them.”

In February, Mayor Julián Castro announced San Antonio, and eight other U.S. cities are being tapped for Google’s fiber network, which would allow users to cruise the Internet at speeds 100 times faster than average broadband, the Current previously reported. The City is in the process of laying the groundwork for the service, which includes securing right-of-ways, permits and making sure the city is ready for the volume of construction.

While the public wi-fi idea is still “preliminary in nature” and specifics haven’t been hashed out, outdoor expanded access could potentially benefit areas such as the River Walk and it could also mean an opportunity for traditionally underserved low-income communities to get online— a key point for Castro, who has made bridging the “digital divide” a central reason to get on board the Google project, saying earlier this year, “San Antonians deserve Internet speeds that are faster than the Third World.” A recent study by Atlantic Cities  highlighted just how disconnected some SA areas are, finding that while homes in and around the downtown business area “overwhelmingly” have broadband, fewer than 20 percent of households west of I-10 and 1-35— in largely poverty-stricken and minority-populated areas—can say the same.

As of now, the City only offers limited public wi-fi access at the San Antonio International Airport, local libraries and a handful of City buildings due to, “infrastructure and maintenance costs.”

The deal is still in the works. A final decision is expected to be made by Google at the end of the year.

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