Google is looking at ways to bring its Wi-Fi networks to cities where it offers Google Fiber, the high-speed Internet service it offers selected metro areas in the U.S., starting with a free plan and ranging up to $120 per month bundled with TV services. The Google Wi-Fi networks that currently are deployed in test markets including Mountain View offer free access to users who want to connect, though Google recently switched its Mountain View project from being a city-wide deployment to being one focused on just the downtown core.
The plans for Wi-Fi network expansion to Fiber cities was uncovered by IDG News Service (via 9to5Google), which found language in a document Google is sending around to 34 cities which it is targeting for Fiber deployment in 2015. It has a section about “discussing [Google's] Wi-Fi plans and related requirements” for the cities in question as being part of the Fiber deployment planning process. Google also provided IDG with a statement saying it would indeed “love to be able to bring Wi-Fi access to all of [its] Fiber cities,” but also noted that it had no specific plans to disclose at the moment.
Providing free Wi-Fi is something that Google has seemed keen on for some time. It partnered with the city of San Francisco to deploy free hotspots in parks around the city last year, and it entered into a partnership with Starbucks to replace AT&T as the provider of free Wi-Fi hotspots last year, too. There’s a lot of mounting evidence to suggest one of its long-term aims is to blanket the U.S. with free basic connectivity, if it can manage to do so in a cost-effective manner. That has huge potential upside for the search giant, as it means providing greater access to its sites and services to users who might otherwise not be able to reach them.
Google also recently acquired drone maker Titan Aerospace, which will help with its Project Loon, an ambitious attempt to bring Internet to remote locations the world over. Google shares a vision of blanket connectivity with Facebook, which is using its own sub-orbital robots with lasers to try to bring the web to the un-webbed. Both the drones and Google Fiber are two sides of the same coin – coin that Google wants to use to grow its already-considerable bank.