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Second Attempt at Free WiFi in San Francisco Launched on Market Street

After an unsuccessful attempt in 2007, the City is at it again, but doing so in stages. Already in use in limited areas like City Hall and public housing projects, Monday's Market Street roll-out creates a nexus between wifi and surface transit.
December 18, 2013, 9am PST | Irvin Dawid
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On Monday, the city officially began "San_Francisco_Free_WiFi" on the city's main transit corridor, Market Street, writes John Coté. It follows Muni's streetcar from Castro Street to the foot of Market Street at San Francisco Bay. [See map in The Castro Biscuit].

Coté writes that "(u)nlike the original citywide proposal [by former Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2007], which collapsed amid political bickering between the mayor and the Board of Supervisors and concerns over a city contract with EarthLink and Google, this network is constructed and owned by the city."  

The foundation of the Market Street wi-fi coverage is provided by "fiber-optic cable along Market Street and connections to network equipment set up on traffic lights and other city-owned fixtures."

Unlike the prior attempt where it contracted with private companies, the city set up its own network at a cost of about $500,000 after donations from two Silicon Valley companies.

"It was simpler, faster, better to do it on our own," said Marc Touitou, whom (Mayor Ed) Lee appointed as the city's chief information officer in April. "The quality is higher, with the technical design by the Department of Technology. We wanted high capacity. ... We wanted it to be cool - no strings attached, no ads."

Coté notes that "despite its proximity to Silicon Valley and the city's tech boom, [San Francisco] is not at the top of the network chain domestically. Residents of both Kansas Cities and Provo, Utah, can get on Google's 1-gigabit fiber network, with Austin, Texas, on the way."

Correspondent's note: This post was prepared, with great patience due to a weak connection to "San_Francisco_Free_WiFi", from a bagel shop about 25 feet from Market Street.

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Published on Monday, December 16, 2013 in San Francisco Chronicle
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