by CIO Staff

Google, EarthLink Plan Additional Wi-Fi Bid

Apr 12, 20063 mins

Google and EarthLink, the companies selected last week to provide free and paid wireless access to the city of San Francisco, are planning a joint Wi-Fi bid for an additional American city under an arrangement that would give users more-limited free service than the San Francisco bid, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The news comes from EarthLink Chief Executive Officer Garry Betty, according to The Journal.

Though the companies have not decided on a specific city, they plan to offer a network that would be largely supported by users who pay roughly $20 a month for Internet access. That service would be four to five times faster than the service offered to all city residents by Google, free of charge, The Journal reports. The Google service would provide access to its ad-supported search service and a number of local websites, and would contain technology that blocks non-subscriber access, according to The Journal.

The service differs from the one to be offered in San Francisco because it would be largely based on a paid subscriber base, The Journal reports.

Though Mountain View, Calif.-based Google has dismissed the idea, its recent actions would suggest a widespread effort on the company’s part to increase its presence in the business of providing Internet access, a shift that could lead to increased search engine traffic and, in turn, increased ad revenue.

A Google spokesperson told The Journal, “EarthLink has been a longtime partner of Google’s, and we look forward to working together to unwire San Francisco. We are open to considering other opportunities in this space with EarthLink, but at this time remain focused on the Bay Area and have no specific plans to announce regarding a second city.”

The cost of building such a network is estimated at $15 million, according to The Journal.

EarthLink will focus on fee-based service in future Wi-Fi bids, The Journal reports. Free service is plausible in San Francisco, Betty told The Journal, because its high population density enables the company to profit, but other, more spread-out locales may not prove worthy of the investment. 

“We still don’t believe in the free model much,” because of the network’s high maintenance, update and user support service costs, Betty told The Journal. “We’re not in the business to break even. We’re in the business of making money for our shareholders.”

EarthLink already holds contracts to build Wi-Fi networks in both Anaheim, Calif., and Philadelphia, according to The Journal, and is pursuing additional related projects in as many as two dozen cities.

For related CIO content, read Wi-Fight.

For related news, read Privacy Concerns Hamper San Fran’s Google, EarthLink Wi-Fi Deal and San Fran Selects Google, EarthLink for Wi-Fi.

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