Mountain View Voice

Opinion - August 2, 2013

Time for Google fix WiFi or turn it off

It is time for Google to step up and either repair its troubled WiFi system in Mountain View or shut it down, which is a solution that no one wants.

Despite promises to make repairs, most recently in February, the company seems unable to make a firm commitment to repair the service that it launched seven years ago.

In the last few years, more and more residents have complained about poor or nonexistent service on the system, which is intended to provide coverage from 500 nodes mounted atop utility poles all over the city. The company admitted in February that the system was in need of a major upgrade. The company's WiFi users forum has been deluged with complaints, as has the Voice website.

It is difficult to imagine any IT issue at the company's headquarters taking so long to repair, so it could be that the company's managers are simply not pushing employees to get cracking on the city's system. Certainly money is not the problem, as Google is one of the world's most successful companies, with billions of dollars in the bank. And we hardly think that repairing a simple WiFi system is beyond the technical expertise of Google engineers.

Another oddity in this struggle to bring the Mountain View system up to speed is the recent announcement that Google has offered to provide free WiFi service to all San Francisco parks. It raises the question of why a company that cannot maintain a simple system in Mountain View would believe it could provide trouble-free WiFi service in 31 San Francisco parks.

Google spokesperson Jenna Wandres explained the company's Mountain View plan in February. She told the Voice: "We are working on a plan to add more bandwidth and make connections easier. We're committed to it. We're working on all sorts of upgrades. We want our users to be able to enjoy all the rich content that's available online."

But those grandiose promises have yet to materialize, leaving many disgruntled Mountain View WiFi users in the dark and having to make other plans to access their service.

In February, Google said that the vintage 2006 system was not designed to carry today's heavy traffic, which logs 25,000 users every month, up from 19,000 in 2009. And, no surprise, today's typical users are requiring more and more bandwidth to download files and stream video from sites like Hulu and Netflix.

A possible solution may be for Google to install upgrades to the Mountain View system, if the city would take on maintenance. The city of San Francisco has agreed to maintain the network in the parks after the first two years.

It is our hope that Google will shoulder the costs on its own and agree to make whatever upgrades are necessary and continue to maintain the WiFi system here. It is a perfect opportunity for the company to continue to build rapport with Mountain View residents, who are coping with runaway increases for apartment rents and single-family homes. We believe that whatever expenditure is involved in repairing or upgrading the WiFi system would be a miniscule cost to Google and would greatly enhance its reputation in the city. And it would take a longstanding sore point with Google WiFi off the table.

Comments

Posted by WiFi user, a resident of another community
on Aug 2, 2013 at 4:12 pm

You have to consider that in a poorly performing WiFi network there are many differing causes. Let's break them into three main areas. (1) Congestion of WiFi access frequencies in the area served by an access point or congestion of that particular access point (2) Congestion in the chain of WiFi access devices that form a set of collectors and primary service point and (3) Congestion in the internet service provided to the WiFi network. Complicating this is the fact that the expectations of for any network have risen dramatically in the last 7 years. We have LTE wireless networks now with 100mb bandwidth to the phone, compared to 2G Data with barely 1 mb bandwidth. People are expecting more without realizing it.


It is likely that the entire network needs to be re-engineered due to the changes in usage patterns over the years. This is not something with a quick fix, and so we can at least hope that Google is working on this re-engineering.

Also note that they just announced they would be providing 100+ megabit service to all 7000 Starbucks stores in the United States. Wow! Now that's much harder to do.


Posted by rolo8ab, a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 5, 2013 at 5:02 pm

rolo8ab is a registered user.

Yep...WiFi was once VERY dependable..
It was there day or night ,and sooo fast , omg !
I was so tickled with the performance ,i considered
dropping dial-up ....But now ? its sadd..an sorry..
Im 200 yards straight out my window to the noid..barely
a one bar signal
bigboysdontcry-bigboysdont-bigboysdontcry


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