Commercial internet wi-fi hotspots are popping up in coffee shops and bookstores around the country. Most universities and many public libraries offer free wi-fi service. A quick drive though any but the most downtrodden neighborhoods yields signals from at least a small percentage of the residences. With wi-fi being as popular as it is, why is it that wi-fi infrastructure isn't as well developed as cellular telephone service? Why hasn't someone made wi-fi even more accessible?
The answer to these questions is undoubtably money, costs, in particular; however, the infrastructure and service costs may be covered through advertising, and the company to do it may be our favorite search engine provider: Google.
According to a report in Business 2.0, Google has been building a national network by buying up miles of dark, unused fiber-optic cable and test marketing a wi-fi hotspot in San Francisco's Union Square shopping district. Feeva (formerly UnwireNow), the contractor providing the San Francisco hotspot is preparing additional free hotspots in California, Florida, New York, and Washington.
According to Feeva, Inc.'s website, the company "provides a software platform that allows businesses and metro areas to provide WiFi access for free or with low user fees. Our solution radically changes the way that WiFi — and even wired — access is delivered to the public or to any specific user group. [The] solution is ideal for any entity or business that wants to provide wireless or wired Internet access to the public or to a specific user group, but doesn't want to risk a large upfront investment."
Google has also built partnerships in New York, Atlanta, and Miami with telecommunications providers AboveNet, Cogent Communications, and WilTel. A national broadband wi-fi network could offer Google an unprecedented opportunity to develop a long-term advertising revenue stream, based partially on an ability to locate each wi-fi user and target geographically-specific advertising. Using technology developed by Feeva, Google may be able to serve online ads for stores and services that are next to the wi-fi hotspot user.
I'd be willing to let Google know where I am, in return for free metropolitan wi-fi access, especially in resort areas, where it's sometimes difficult for me to find a public hotspot.
When I can find a hotspot, it's often at a cost of up to $20 a day. I'd rather trade a bit of personal privacy for free wireless service.
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