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.