Google's dog and pony show

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By Steven T. Jones
First, Mayor Gavin Newsom tapped his buddies at Google (in partnership with Earthlink) to build a citywide wireless system that would be free to city residents. It was a move that was done without full sunshine and it pissed off some information activists like Media Alliance, but the Department of Telecommunication and Information Services has since conducted a more open and diligent negotiations process with the companies. That caused Google to grouse to the Chron that the city was dragging its feet. So Sup. Jake McGoldrick decided maybe the city should be looking at doing a municipal wifi system instead, which he's having the budget analyst study (if the board approves study this week) and report back on by the end of the year. That's also when DTIS expects to have a final deal with Google/Earthlink -- and when a consultant's study on municipal broadband (that's fiber rather than wifi) is due back. Well, with all this possibility swirling, Google and Earthlink have now announed a series of town hall meeting from now until the end of the year. Game on! Their press release follows:

EARTHLINK AND GOOGLE ANNOUNCE CITYWIDE TOUR TO DISCUSS WIRELESS NETWORK

Network Will Include Free and Paid Tier of Service

San Francisco, October 2, 2006—Today, EarthLink (NASDAQ: ELNK) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) announced that the two companies will host 11 community forums throughout San Francisco to discuss the benefits of a citywide municipal wireless network.

This past April, EarthLink and Google’s joint proposal was selected in a public bid as the best solution for the City’s wireless network. The planned network includes a free and paid tier of service, which residents and visitors will be able to access citywide.

Google will offer free citywide service at speeds of about 300 kbps. EarthLink will deliver a paid, higher-speed offering at 1 Mbps, up- and down-stream. EarthLink will also make 1 Mbps access available on a wholesale basis to other Internet service providers as part of its Open Access wholesale program, and also expects to make compelling business class services available for the municipal government, enterprises and institutions.

“EarthLink’s vision is to deliver wireless infrastructure that will bring affordable broadband service to residents, businesses, municipal employees and visitors throughout the City,” said Don Berryman, executive vice president of EarthLink and president of the ISP’s municipal networks unit. “San Francisco is one of the most progressive cities in the world and our joint proposal with Google will bring the promise of the Internet to San Francisco, the high-tech capital of the world.”

“At Google, we see building this network as an opportunity to be an inspiration to the world,” said Chris Sacca, Google’s head of Special Initiatives. “We hope that by allowing Internet access to be universal, we are creating an impetus for other cities around the world to do the same for their citizens and visitors. Closing the divide in technology access is something we are very passionate about.”

The community tour starts October 3 in San Francisco’s Excelsior neighborhood, and is scheduled to end December 7 in Glen Park. EarthLink and Google will reach out to all of San Francisco’s diverse neighborhoods as part of its community outreach effort.

Each meeting is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The full schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, October 3 Ocean Avenue Presbyterian Church
32 Ocean Avenue (near Mission Street)

Wednesday, October 4 Southeast Community Facility Commission
1800 Oakdale Avenue (at Phelps Street)

Tuesday, October 17 Eugene Friend-SOMA Recreation Center
270 6th Street (between Howard and Folsom streets)

Thursday, October 19 Chinese Recreation Center
1199 Mason Street (at Washington Street)

Monday, October 30 Sunset Recreation Center
2201 Lawton Street (by 28th Avenue)

Thursday, November 2 Palega Recreation Center
500 Felton Street (at Holyoke Street)

Tuesday, November 14 Ella Hill Hutch Community Center
1050 McAllister Street (near Webster Street)

Wednesday, November 15 Helen Wills Clubhouse
Intersection of Broadway & Larkin

Monday, December 4 City Forest Lodge
254 Laguna Honda Boulevard (by Clarendon Avenue)

Wednesday, December 6 Richmond Recreation Center
251 18th Avenue (near California Street)

Thursday, December 7 Glen Park Recreation Center
70 Elk Street (by O’Shaughnessy Blvd)

For more information on the community forum tour, or plans about the Wi-Fi networks, visit www.wififorsf.com or e-mail us at wififorsf@earthlink.net.

About EarthLink

“EarthLink. We revolve around you(SM).” As the nation’s next generation Internet service provider, Atlanta-based EarthLink has earned an award-winning reputation for outstanding customer service and its suite of online products and services. Serving over five million subscribers, EarthLink offers what every user should expect from their Internet experience: high-quality connectivity, minimal online intrusions and customizable features. Whether it's dial-up, high-speed, voice, web hosting, wireless or “EarthLink Extras” like home networking or security, EarthLink connects people to the power and possibilities of the Internet. Learn more about EarthLink by calling (800) EARTHLINK or visiting EarthLink's Web site at www.EarthLink.net.

About Google Inc.

Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major global markets. Google's targeted advertising program provides businesses of all sizes with measurable results, while enhancing the overall web experience for users. Google is headquartered in Silicon Valley with offices throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. For more information, visit www.google.com.

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