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City Hall to switch off Google WiFi

Perhaps another sign that Google's free WiFi system in Mountain View is on its last legs, city officials are getting ready to switch off Google's system inside city buildings and replace it with a WiFi system costing $130,000 over the next five years.

The system that was a gift to the city from Google in 2006, providing free internet access from hundreds of light-pole mounted nodes and in city buildings. Now, even inside the city's library and inside City Hall, users say the WiFi network hasn't been fully functional for months.

"We started to get a lot of complaints," said Steve Rodriguez, the city's IT manager. "We generally get them in the library. From what I can tell it's pretty much not working anymore. We get asked a lot, 'What is going on with the Google wireless?'" Rodriguez's response? "I don't know."

Last Tuesday the connection appeared to be working in the library, but staff said they receive at least one or two complaints every day from patrons not able to log on, or who log on and find a slow or spotty connection. "The service is just not cutting it," said one library staffer, who said service became noticeably poor in January.

The city is switching to a WiFi network from Smart Wave technologies, taking the opportunity to piggy back on a contract Smart Wave won from the City of San Jose, a practice which saved the city from being required to conduct its own bidding process, Rodriguez said.

"It's just a service that needs to be addressed," Rodriguez said. "Being where we are, the expectation is pretty high that we at least have something, especially in the library."

The new WiFi system -- limited to city buildings -- is expected to be functional in the library by November, shortly followed by a system in City Hall, the Community Center at Rengstorff Park, the Senior Center, the Teen Center, the Center for Performing Arts and Michaels at Shoreline, including its outdoor patio. There's also a possibility of it working outside in Civic Center Plaza, Rodriguez said.

In July Google promised an announcement about the future of its free network after users complained at the start of the year about spotty and nonexistent connections from its nodes, mounted on over 500 light poles around the city, providing those with special signal repeater devices free home internet. The company has said increased demands for bandwidth from increased use of sites like Netflix and Hulu have overwhelmed the original infrastructure. Google said this week that an announcement on Google WiFi's was still coming, but did not provide any new information by press time.

Comments

Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park
on Oct 3, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Let's be perfectly clear here: Google WiFi connectivity at the library has been spotty *FOR YEARS*, not just a few months.

I note that I can stand directly under a WiFi node mounted on a city streetlight and not be able to connect. Even if the connection speed is slow, it would be a more useful network if it had some modicum of reliability. It did, once upon a time, but those days are long gone.

Let's hope the city has not been using taxpayer's money to power nonfunctional WiFi transceivers all these years.


Posted by Why Fie?, a resident of Castro City
on Oct 3, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Solution: Open a Starbucks next to City Hall.


Posted by Max Hauser, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 3, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Max Hauser is a registered user.

Just as the Google comment mentioned, people now casually use wireless connection for things like real-time video, requiring 10 to 100 times the data volume of traditional internet services that were common when this system was set up. Why are these people surprised that this use swamps the system's capability? This issue is not limited to Google's city wi-fi, it is surfacing in many local wireless networks.


Posted by DougA, a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 3, 2013 at 5:31 pm

I used to get 3 Google wifi nodes from my home. They have been gone for years. Google installed wifi in Mountain View to advertise the service to other cities. Now they don't need us any more. They don't even CARE about the library.


Posted by Tony, a resident of Castro City
on Oct 3, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Well, I'm glad someone stepped in to fix this since Foolgle won't. I mean Google. No, actually, I mean Foolgle. I bet they announce that they're taking it down, this sounds like a death rattle that the city already knows about, otherwise why spend money to replace it if Google is going to fix it soon?


Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 3, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Google sucks! I want my money back!

oh yeah, umm, nevermind


Posted by john, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 3, 2013 at 9:23 pm

pretty sad with Google Headquarters in Mountain View they could not work out some WI-Fi system that they are doing other places around the country. Great relationship!


Posted by Ora, a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 4, 2013 at 12:50 am

I wish Google move out of Mt. View


Posted by Faint Echo, a resident of Slater
on Oct 4, 2013 at 9:12 am

I wish Google move Mt. View


Posted by whisper, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 4, 2013 at 10:40 am

I Google Mt. View


Posted by mom, a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Oct 4, 2013 at 11:56 am

People may say "you get what you pay for", however, Google was getting a lot of free press for providing wifi, whether it worked or not. If Costco promised to give out free hot dogs to every customer and then didn't, and were still advertising that they provide free hots, there would be a lot of unhappy people.


Posted by Croc Dundee, a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2013 at 2:29 pm

I view Mt. Google move wish.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 4, 2013 at 2:31 pm

No, people are not pushing more data through the system now than when the system was new. Google has always blocked most ports so the system only offered minimal access. It was barely usable since day one. As a network designer for 30 years and as one of the original Beta testers for Google WiFi I can authoritatively say that its never worked well. I've never gotten an entire web page to display and could only get a handful of email through it. Thats just useless and they are pointing to our fair city and telling other communities that they will provide them free WiFi like ours. Its just a matter of time before we're thought of as idiots for allowing Google to not provide service and still use our fair name.
I think that in addition to switching off Google WiFi in city buildings, it should be turned off citywide.


Posted by Bill Hitchens, a resident of Waverly Park
on Oct 4, 2013 at 3:13 pm

We hooked up to Google WiFi very early on with professionally installed Ruckus modem and a Netgear Wireless router, both quality gear. It was a disaster from Day 1 --- insufficient bandwidth and inability to access / dropped connections. It was even slower and far more unreliable than the horrible ATT 56K dial-up service that we had suffered with for years. After 6 months of free WiFi hell, we contracted with SBC/ATT DSL and have had mostly decent, if not blazing, access since then.

Google WiFi was not a total failure, at least for Google if not the people of Mountain View. Google learned a very valuable lesson known by economists as "The Tragedy of the Commons". In short, if you offer a valuable service for free, it always will be overused and become useless for all. Google learned that the future of the Internet lies in ultra-high bandwidth "last mile fiber optic cable" and is installing such a system in Kansas City, Kansas. We should be so lucky. They should have offered it in Mountain View first.


Posted by Wife WiFi, a resident of Castro City
on Oct 4, 2013 at 4:26 pm

City and Google like Marriage Relationship based on trust and LOYALTY, City should not Google around because of Wifie Slow Performance. And replace it with a much Smarter Wifie Technologies. City will have to pay an Alimony support for ever . . . an eternity.


Posted by Guttentag, a resident of Gemello
on Oct 4, 2013 at 9:52 pm

I guess it is OK that it never worked because it was free. I am sure Google thinks it is not worth fixing it or even maintaining it in a decent working condition because they are too big now. The poor working condition of Google Wifi is almost like spitting on all Mtview residents who were using it and especiailly the library patrons. if google were an ethical company with any kind of decency, they should have come out with an announcement for abandoning it. What a arrogant company? I understand it is a free service and it is not mandatory that they need to offer anything to anyone. But then if you do something , do it properly and show some respect. Don't we all respect even the homeless people even though many of us don't offer them any money? Google is just a pure arrogant company and they deserve to fail. I can't wait for that day to see massive layoffs and empty buildings.


Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park
on Oct 4, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Contrary to another reports above, I found that Google WiFi was actually useful enough to serve as a primary Internet connection for 2-3 years (let's say between 2006-2009) if one had the proper relay equipment and were lucky to be close enough to a Google WiFi transceiver.

A few years later, it ended. The system had degraded to the point where it was pretty useless. No reliable connection despite that I hadn't moved. And yes, I tried other gear, but as I mentioned in my original post, there's no connection even if you are within fifty feet of the node.

Google set up the system to curry favor from the MV city council members circa 2005-06, and basically disowned the system after it had served its purpose.


Posted by David Speakman, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 5, 2013 at 3:10 pm

My opinion - it was a scam from the get-go.

I believe that Google only wanted to do it because it was cheaper to put wifi nodes on city poles than to pay for Internet at home for all of its employees that live here.

That they had a tiered service was telltale - they were *not* interested in providing access to Mountain View residents - only for their employees.


Posted by Martin, a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 10, 2013 at 1:50 pm

There appears to be a Google Wi-Fi repeater on the telephone pole about 150 feet from where my laptop sits and I've been able to connect to it and use it without much of a problem. Sometimes the connection speed is very slow, but at other times it was fine. I don't have a special modem. I just connect with the built in Wi-Fi adapter in my laptop. One time I used Google Wi-Fi to do a search to get information on configuring my new DSL modem that I have for my paid Internet access.


Posted by GlibGrouse, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 20, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Whatever the backstory, everybody's known it doesn't work for years. It was time to shyte or get off the pot. Additional data demand is not exactly a new problem, and nor is it rocket science to address. Comments to the effect that it'll get fixed, hold on, we're aware of the problem, etc. have wasted everybody's time. I thought big G would fix it if for no other reason than to gain from all google wifi users having to use it via google account.

A well-loved public library in the middle of silicon valley without functional wifi? Weak sauce.


Posted by Trudy, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 9, 2014 at 9:34 pm

Below the radar, Google "modified" the contract with the City, deleting language for any services across Mountain View and providing service only to about a dozen blocks downtown. Rather than any apologies for the year's of hollow promises, they instead sneaked out under cover of darkness leaving the public to figure it out on their own.


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