Google has work to do on free WiFi | February 8, 2013 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

Opinion - February 8, 2013

Google has work to do on free WiFi

After hearing more and more complaints about the poor quality of its WiFi system in Mountain View, it appears that Google finally is ready to redesign and upgrade its free service that is beginning to frustrate many residents who have depended on it in recent years.

The company's six-year-old WiFi, designed long before Neflix and Hulu were gobbling up bandwidth, has apparently been overwhelmed by a flood of traffic, and in many locations, simply shuts down.

But despite their frustrations, the company says residents should hold on while Google completes work on making things better.

Communications consultant Jenna Wandres 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."

This is a promise that we hope the company can keep. Free WiFi downtown and in other residential areas has been a gift from Google that many residents can experience while saving a small, but significant, amount of money every month. For those not lucky enough to land a good-paying job at Google, free WiFi has been a wonderful way to connect with the company, which is by far the city's largest employer.

And although free WiFi can be a wonderful thing, when service is cut off or not available at all after working fine for five or six years, it hurts the company's image. Those who who depend on the WiFi to connect to the web have been critical of the service.

R. Michael said in a letter to the Voice that access to Google WiFi has not been available for a month. The service was still not working even after several calls were made to Google about the issue.

Google maintains a stellar reputation worldwide for its speedy search engine and many other products and services. But it appears that Mountain View WiFi got away from them and now needs a lot of work to restore confidence and reliability in the system.

When the company announced in August of 2006 that it was moving ahead on building a WiFi network it cited the "overwhelming positive" feedback from over a thousand testers as a good reason to go forward. Its $1 million investment was enough to purchase nearly 400 nodes that each broadcast the WiFi signal about 500 feet. The company rents space on the city's utility poles for $36 apiece or $13,680 a year. It was a good system, with users saying it compared with DSL connection, the most common alternative at the time. Outside, reception near the Voice office, then at the corner of Hope Street and Evelyn Avenue, worked well as long as a wall or tree canopy was not in the way. Inside was more difficult, where connecting became spotty at best, although devices that attached to outside windows were available at the time to boost reception.

But with Internet traffic so much heavier these days, Google is facing a big job to restore the reputation of its free WiFi in Mountain View. It is a service the company does not offer in other locations, which we hope will make it easier to upgrade. With the explosive growth of smart phones, iPads and video streaming services, demand for bandwidth is going to skyrocket here in the years ahead. We just hope Google is ready, because the need is already here. Free WiFi is a wonderful gift to the city, but once the promise is made, the company needs to stand behind its offer.


Posted by Greg Nelson, a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 9, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Indeed Google needs to correct the ongoing problems with the MV network - reliability has taken a serious downturn in recent months.
Google is well aware of this condition, from the multitude of postings to their website, myself included.
Having a low level Google employee reply to the Voice article who promises only that Google is aware of and fixing the problems without committing to specific dates and technological information re fixing the problems does nothing on Google's part.
Meanwhile Google is setting another free WiFi network in Chelsea NYC and doing a fiber optic network in Kansas City.
Do No Evil - live up to your words, Google.

Posted by Myself, a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 9, 2013 at 9:28 pm

In the past couple of days it has already become markedly improved for me. Prior to this it had not been working reliably since December.

Posted by DC, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 11, 2013 at 10:03 pm

100 feet and only 20% effective at modem speeds. (Portion removed.)

Posted by Oldtimer, a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 15, 2013 at 12:47 am

You guys realize its free right...

Posted by registered user, Wo'O ldeafarm, a resident of another community
on Feb 17, 2013 at 2:29 pm

google wifi sucks, i have had awful luck with it.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 11, 2013 at 2:00 pm

What is the approximate time we can expect Google and the City to finish upgrading the WiFi system? The current system has basically been unusable since mid December - mainly because of the large number of data transmission errors that have been occurring. The errors have been happening at an ever increasing rate over the last year.

I think it is high time that Google and the City of Mountain View provided the residents of the city a definitive time line as to when to expect a well functioning service.

Posted by W H, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 17, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Google and the City are both ducking the issue with the upgrade/increased loading talk. Very technical users on the Google WiFi Network forum
Web Link have pointed out that the network has broken hardware that corrupts bits among other things and significantly effects throughput. I suspect that the loading has actually gone down due to its poor usability and speed. If loading is the real issue, they could provide us with stats on the network to support that assertion.

Posted by DF, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 7, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Although someone pointed out that Google wifi is free (implying that we shouldn't complain since we are not paying), there are other issues. The MV library only provides wifi access through Google, which is horrific. I've literally spent hours trying to connect and waiting for incredibly slow loading pages that typically just stop loading half the way through or error out. I can't even get my gmail page to load consistently. It's a hit and miss situation that can make even the calmest person ready to pull out their hair. I've finally given up and now drive over to the Sunnyvale library because the MV system is so inefficient. It doesn't matter whether I'm trying to use my laptop or the library-provided PC's, access is consistently inconsistent. Thanks Google for making my library unusable.

Posted by Tom, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 2, 2013 at 11:15 am

Still sucking. My house is 20 feet away from an Google wifi antenna with clear line of sight and I can not connect. I test it once a week, sometimes standing on the sidewalk next to the antenna.

Posted by MichaelThect, a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 2, 2017 at 4:00 am

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