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San Francisco receives more than 24 Wi-Fi bids

San Francisco has received more than 24 separate proposals to provide free, wireless Internet services citywide from vendors including Web search company Google Inc., the city's mayor said Monday.
/ Source: Reuters

San Francisco has received more than 24 separate proposals to provide free, wireless Internet services citywide from vendors including Web search company Google Inc., the city's mayor said Monday.

City officials said participants ranged from Cingular, the largest U.S. wireless carrier, to Atlanta-based Internet service provider EarthLink Inc. to San Francisco wireless broadband start-up Feeva Inc.

In August, the City of San Francisco had issued a "request for information and comment" to vendors interested in creating an affordable wireless network available in virtually every nook and cranny of this hilly city of around 750,000.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said his call for free wireless access for all San Franciscans could be satisfied by a city-owned wireless company, some form of public-private partnership or by completely contracting to private parties.

At a news conference, he and other city officials compared wireless access to other municipal functions like water, power and libraries and called wireless Internet access to information a fundamental human right.

"This is inevitable — Wi-Fi. It is long overdue," Newsom told a news conference at San Francisco's city hall. "It is to me a fundamental right to have access universally to information," he said.

The San Francisco mayor said he was seeking to promote free or low-cost municipal wireless access in order to make the city more attractive to businesses and residents. But he also cited its utility as an alternative means of distributing information in the event of a natural disaster such as an earthquake.

Chris Vein, director of telecommunication and information services for the City of San Francisco, said the proposals involved a range of different free or low-cost business models.

Only one company Vein declined to name had proposed an advertising supported plan for free wireless access, he said.

That company appeared to be Google. A Google spokesman on Friday had confirmed that its Wi-Fi access proposal could be funded through online advertising.