Google plans to offer free, high-speed Internet access to everyone in its Silicon Valley home town — a hospitable gesture that the online search leader hopes to see spread to other parts of the country.
The new wireless, or “Wi-Fi,” network, is believed to establish Mountain View, Calif., as the largest U.S. city with totally free Internet access available throughout the entire community, according to both Google and city officials.
St. Cloud, Fla., a suburb of Orlando with a population of about 28,000, had claimed that mantle earlier this year after it launched a free Wi-Fi network.
About 72,000 people reside in Mountain View, an 11.5-square-mile city located about 35 miles south of San Francisco. As the home to major companies like Google and VeriSign, Mountain View’s daytime population can swell above 100,000.
Google invested about $1 million to build the Mountain View Network and expects to have to spend far less than that each year to keep it running. The financial commitment represents a pittance for Google, which has nearly $10 billion in cash.
Powered by 380 radio antennae, the Mountain View Network is supposed to surf the Web at speeds comparable to the Internet connections delivered by digital subscriber, or DSL lines. It will be slightly slower than a high-speed cable connection.