Mountain View to partially replace Google Wi-Fi

A recent test found it impossible to get a working connection on the company-sponsored network

Mountain View City Hall

Mountain View City Hall

Mountain View is installing new Wi-Fi hotspots in parts of the city to supplement the poorly performing network operated by Google.

Google, which is based in Mountain View, launched a citywide Wi-Fi network with much fanfare in 2006 as a way for residents and businesses to connect to the Internet at no cost. It covers most of the Silicon Valley city and worked well until last year when connectivity got rapidly worse, according to residents.

An August field test by IDG News Service found it impossible to get a working connection at numerous points around the city, including City Hall and the main library.

"The city has received many complaints in recent months regarding the performance and reliability of the free Google Wi-Fi system in Mountain View, particularly at our library," Kimberly Thomas, assistant to the city manager in Mountain View, said on Tuesday.

As a result, it's installing an upgraded network at City Hall that will also extend to the town's library. In both locations, Google's Wi-Fi network has been the only option for wireless connectivity.

The city and Google have both blamed the problems on the design of the network. It's been unable to keep up with the demands of today's data-rich society, with laptops, smartphones and tablets downloading megabytes of information at a time.

City staff are working with Google on alternatives for the citywide network and hope to have a plan before the City Council in the next few months, Thomas said. "The current system will remain at its status quo condition until options for its future are finalized."

In the meantime, the city is moving ahead with its upgrades.

In a brief comment, Google said it was "actively in discussions with the Mountain View city staff to review several options for the future of the network."

Google is involved in several projects to provide Internet access in various parts of the world. In the U.S., it has been deploying gigabit-per-second fiber-optic connections in some cities, and in remote areas it's experimenting with hot air balloons as a way to provide network service.

Earlier this week, Google said it helped found the Alliance for Affordable Internet to reduce the cost of Internet connectivity in developing nations.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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