Google has slowly been building up its service provider cred, with an ambitious fiber project in Kansas City and free WiFi initiatives through a partnership with Boingo. Today, the search giant is taking another step in that direction: it will unveil a free, public WiFi network in the New York City neighborhood of Chelsea. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is expected to join Ben Fried, Google’s CIO, to make the announcement at 10.30 am Eastern time.
The network will become the largest public outdoor service of its kind in New York, and the first neighborhood in the city with free WiFi. Although the network will be open to anyone, the Chelsea Improvement Company, also involved in the scheme, is hoping that it will provide a further boost to the city’s so-called “Silicon Alley” by attracting more startups and other tech businesses to the area. Chelsea is also where Google has its own New York headquarters.
The network will cover the area between Gansevoort Street and 19th Street from 8th Avenue to the West Side Highway, and will include the Chelsea Triangle, 14th Street Park and Gansevoort Plaza.
Google has already been providing some WiFi services in the city. Over the summer, to promote Google Offers, it teamed up with Boingo to provide free WiFi at 200 public hotspots. (A promotion that later got picked up by Microsoft when the Google deal ended.) Boingo is also working, longer term, on a project to light up WiFi across New York’s subway network. To promote Google Play, Google also teamed up with Boingo for a 4,000-hotspot U.S.-wide service.
Google has also rolled out free WiFi in Mountain View, “as part of our ongoing efforts to reach out to our hometown,” it notes on the login page. But it’s also had some hiccups in its municipal WiFi efforts in the past, including one effort in San Francisco that was abandoned, back in 2007, after Earthlink hit the rocks.
We’ll update this post as we learn more.