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Amid complaints, Google promises WiFi upgrades

Original post made on Jan 31, 2013

While Google says it is committed to improving its network of light-pole mounted WiFi nodes in Mountain View, some users say they are tired of how unreliable the free service has been. A Google representative says the company is planning upgrades that could improve the service's reliability.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, January 31, 2013, 10:29 AM

Comments (50)

Posted by Former Google User
a resident of Castro City
on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:34 am

You get the feeling from the article that Google could care less about restoring the service. Google constantly says upgrades are coming, but if you ask for details or a roll out date, all you will get is silence. This is turning into a big scam.

Posted by MV resident
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jan 31, 2013 at 12:25 pm

I have definitely seen a drop off in reliability over the past couple of years, not just at home, but in multiple areas around the city.

Heck, I can stand underneath a light pole with a Google WiFi transceiver and not be able to connect. This is now a regular occurrence in various areas in Mountain View.

Even in downtown Castro Street, service quality has dramatically decreased; I've also seen outages at the public library as well. There are also ongoing reception quality issues at the Caltrain station.

Like others, the WiFi booster that I acquired no longer receives the signal (despite having lived in the same place) and about a year ago, I threw in the towel and signed up for the cheapest DSL package from AT&T.

It's a shame that the network is not what it used to be and that the city has seeming allowed Google to slide on this matter.

Posted by Frustrated_User
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 31, 2013 at 12:42 pm

I bought a booster and all but the so-called service is so unpredictable and unreliable that I just gave up! This is purely a scam and PR by Google and Company perpetrated on City of Mountain View and its residents!

Posted by Me
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 31, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Funny that people are complaining this much about something that is free.

Posted by Bruno
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 31, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Frustrated_User says that he bought a booster "Me". That doesn't seem free.

Posted by domoh
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 31, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Gave up on the service when I could only obtain a local connection and not an internet connection. $20/mo is a small sacrifice to be able to keep up with family overseas. (Skype etc)

Good luck NYC you're next for the poor sloppy service.

Posted by mom
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 31, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Our Google Wifi node has been down for a few years. You get what you pay for, so I don't complain about it and just use DSL, but the aspect that upsets me is that Google is getting PR value for saying that they're giving out free services, when what they're giving out is worthless. I wish they'd save the money and do something worthwhile with it.

Posted by Laura
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 31, 2013 at 2:26 pm

It's never worked great for us at home but there are times it's enabled me to get online away from home and I'm always thankful when I can save cell phone data plan $. Google donated $1M to our school district last year, they are a very generous corporation. If people need guaranteed WIFI service, they should sign up for a paid service. That's what the rest of us do!

Posted by Sparty
a resident of Gemello
on Jan 31, 2013 at 2:36 pm

"Frustrated_User says that he bought a booster "Me". That doesn't seem free."

Yeah? Well guess what. If you want wifi in your house, you STILL need to buy a router, that's not free either.

Posted by MtView Neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Yes I live in Mt. View, but my neighborhood is not represented. And I've never been able to get Google WiFi in my home. I'm too far from any lamp post. I have ALWAYS had to pay for an internet connection. So I have absolutely no sympathy with people compaining about a free service.

It's a free service offered for your convenience - it never was guaranteed to replace a real ISP. If I were Google I'd turn the thing off completely and use the money for some other community service.

Stop crying about it.

Posted by Nicole
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 31, 2013 at 3:33 pm

My issue is with the library...a lot of libraries have free wifi, but because Mt. View has google wifi they don't have any other. Years ago before I moved here I occasionally got it to work in Mt. View, not for a long time. It's just a teasing little icon now. I don't understand the attitude about not complaining for something "free" - if it's offered as an actual service to be used, then some level of quality is expected. I have issues with the school donations too, in that I don't always think they are used for the right things. I do appreciate them, but not when there are stings attached.

Posted by Tony
a resident of Castro City
on Jan 31, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Blaming the City for Google being a bad copmany is like blaming the City because you got a bad hamburger at McDonalds. They're a private company that happens to be in Mountain View. They don't control how every company works. Do you think Palo Alto has anything to do with the operations of Apple?

The government doesn't (and shouldn't) take care of everything for you. If you can find in the City Charter, the local laws, or any government document that states that you should be provided with free, high speed, completly perfect Internet service provided by the goverment, please post it so I can get my free service too (Google doesn't work in the county areas either). Otherwise they're not going to help either. And no, our taxes don't pay for it. Our taxes don't pay for anything we desire. Otherwise, where's my free morning Starbucks? I pay more in taxes than some poeple will make this year.

If you don't like the way Google is conducting themselves, let them know, don't sit in your home and complain online to a third party. Google has an interest in maintaining their "We help the community" badge, make them earn it.

Hats off to the Record for not being the next in line to praise Google and their existance.

Posted by Mr. T
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 31, 2013 at 3:43 pm

C'mon, it is FREE. Just be glad that it works when it does. Google never made any service reliability claims or guarantees.

Posted by JoyS
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Domoh, don't worry about NYC. We pay a bundle for TimeWarner and it's just as unreliable as was Google in Mountain View when I lived there. At least I had other choices there! Internet and cable have been out for over a week and first appointment is for a week from today! And both Internet and cable are intermittent at best. Can Google be any worse?

Posted by Fred
a resident of Castro City
on Jan 31, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Hah! Google can't even get 10 square miles right, you think they're going to get 10 square blocks? In NYC? They probably have as many people in those 10 blocks as we do in our whole city!

Good luck. Maybe they'll move out there. Not like they pay taxes. And for those who think $1 million for schools is anything. How much has it helped? $1 Million is an accounting mistake for Google, just look at their earnings.

If you give a waitress a $0.01 tip, do you still get credit for tipping?

$1 million is less than 0.1% of their revenue. It did nothing to help the schools (mainly because the CTA is greedy and are the real enemy of the state). Why you lemmings give them credit for being a good company is beyond me.

They're an advertising agency that wants all of your personal information so they can sell it. Why do you think they want you to log on when you use their Internet?


Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jan 31, 2013 at 4:19 pm

To all those saying "Don't complain because it's free", let me reiterate what both Nicole and I stated above.

Part of the agreement with this arrangement has Google providing WiFi at the Mountain View Public Library. Guess what? When the Google WiFi node fails, there's no backup WiFi library network and Google is completely unmotivated in providing an immediate fix.

Now I was perfectly fine when Google originally rolled this out and claimed that it was an outdoor network.

The biggest issue is that Google's claims of providing citywide WiFi are still heavily touted, although the network has degraded to the point of being largely useless in many areas *EVEN WHEN YOU ARE STANDING DIRECTLY UNDER ONE OF THEIR WIFI TRANSCEIVERS*.

I do hope that the city's taxpayers are NOT FOOTING THE ELECTRIC BILL for a bunch of busted wireless access points.

Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 31, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Yes, this is a free service. When it first rolled out I tried it.

Bleh.. mediocre speed and unreliable. If I were a starving student it would be OK. But I'm not starving and me and the wife want something more reliable.

And it has only gotten worse since then. I used to be able to use it at the two parks I take my kids. Not anymore. It stopped working a couple years ago.

Now if the damn thing isn't going to work let's at least take them off the streetlights. They are clogging up the wifi for the rest of the neighborhoods and wasting electricity.

Posted by David
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2013 at 7:45 pm

I lived in Mountain View for about 2 years. I am kind of suspicious about the slow internet speed is due to the under table agreement between the internet service provider and the Giant search engine.
The first day I came to Mountain View from Los Angeles three years ago, I was glad that I could access free internet at the parking place of San Antonio Shopping center. But I could not access internet in my apartment nearby. But I could surf internet on the street. It is very weird.

Posted by usa
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 31, 2013 at 7:47 pm

usa is a registered user.

The 4 watt transmitters are wasting electricity?

Clogging the wifi? LOL

Posted by Tony
a resident of Castro City
on Jan 31, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Take it down. Theres a reason nobody has a good model yet. It's not cost effective, especially considering the bandwidth. Google should have assumed this was always going to be just a money sink, but now that its not new and fun, they want to walk away.

They'll probably just dump it on us to pay for.

"And while Google has an agreement that would allow Google to offload responsibility of the network to the city under certain circumstances, there is "no plan to offload it to the city," Wandres said. "

Yeah. Than why bring it up? "Veiled" threat

Posted by Paul
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 31, 2013 at 8:24 pm

The problem has to do with everyone using WiFi routers at home now, often on the same channels that the Google WiFi uses, causing cochannel interference. This can be reduced by using a directional antenna to connect to Google WiFi.

Posted by Mr. Big
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 1, 2013 at 4:21 am

Thank you MV Voice for running an article on this BIG problem.
I have advocated getting the local media involved along with the City since the Google WiFi staff have been less than forthcoming with admitting that any problems exist.

In the past if a node/Tropos router (transmitter/receivers on the light poles) went down, they would acknowledge a problem existed and send out a repair crew. Now, you get "crickets" when you try to contact them.

The service has steadily deteriorated (but still usable) over the years, but since December 20th it has become useless during the daytime.

I hope Google does fix it as there are many residents who rely on this service and cannot afford to get cable or dsl.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 1, 2013 at 7:35 am

Those who say it's free, so don't complain, misunderstand the issue. Google made an agreement to piggyback on to the city's infrastructure, meaning light poles. They get plenty of PR and R and D out of it, as well as collect plenty of personal information, and directly manipulate those who went out and bought a Wifi modem. The city was implicit with the deal as well. Google is getting a relatively free ride by not having to put up the cost of the infrastructure they are using, and Google has not lived up to its side of the deal. So those who think it's just about something free, so take it or leave it, are applying some pretty simplistic thinking indeed. If the network is not going to work as expected, or at least as it did before, the city should require the corporation to remove all the transmitters ASAP. No corporation should be given such free roam over the city.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 2, 2013 at 2:33 am

I suppose I can understand the idea that 'Google hasn't held up to their end of the bargain,' but it's sort of difficult to agree with. Since the inception of the network, the wireless landscape has morphed entirely to the point where every home has wireless networks that compete on the same bandwidth and channels, thereby making current technology pretty useless.

As a secondary issue, a lot of people are complaining that Google is piggybacking off of the infrastructure of the city. Ok... And that's harmful how? The wireless transmitters on the light poles aren't exactly a blight on the beauty that is Mountain View and the amount of power required to run such transmitters is rated at ~18 watts/hour. Current cost of electricity from PG&E is $0.155/kwh. That's negligible.

As a final note, to the woman who couldn't buy her plane ticket because the internet went out I have a suggestion: get creative! If you can get a good rate on a plane ticket, you buy it then and there. If the internet goes down you have about 10 other options. Here are a few:
1) Call the airline to book
2) Call a travel agency to book
3) Go to the cafe down the street to use their wifi and book
4) Go to the library and use their public terminals to book
5) Book at work
6) Have your spouse book at work

You people are CRAZY entitled.

Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 2, 2013 at 6:31 am

Let's not be naive and resort to simplistic thinking. This issue is much more complex and involves one of the wealthiest corporations around. Entitled? Do you know the meaning of the word? If any, Google is the one that is CRAZY entitled.

So what then? Any company should be able to get a relatively free ride by piggybacking on the city's infrastructure after making grandiose false promises about delivering something good and "free" to the community? How has Google benefited from this little experiment? Will we ever know? The company didn't pay for the initial installation or cost of the light poles.

I'd like to deliver discounted pizzas to homes. Can my delivery boys and girls hang on to the cop cars while riding their skateboards and zip around from one end of town to the other for free? What makes Google so special?

Posted by MichaelT
a resident of Gemello
on Feb 2, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Its more than working or not working because of bandwidth which BTW is throttled as can be verified online. Its more than being slow or unable to get a signal it has also to do with packet corruption of downloaded files. Its more than the use of older wifi modems, routers, etc..
The reply from Jenna Wandres, Google communications associate, is more of a PR comment then addressing the issues directly.
To see many of the issues read the discussion group.
Web Link

Posted by Google - Wifi
a resident of Whisman Station
on Feb 2, 2013 at 7:45 pm

From: Web Link

- Most of Mountain View has had limited network since Dec 20, 2012
- Which means even opening Google web page may take a few minute

- The Network has been having corrupted data since - July 2012
- This means if you download anything it may be corrupted, for example updates which in turn may corrupt you system.

Posted by Rajiv
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 2, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Here is a speed test I just did using the San Francisco servers of the Speakeasy speed test. The speed test started at 8:48 and finished at 9:07

Saturday 02-Feb 2013, 08:47:57 PM

Your IP:

Your Speed Result:
Download Speed: 15 kbps (1.9 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 4 kbps (0.5 KB/sec transfer rate)

Google WiFi has not worked since Dec 20th - the speeds have been consistently low never exceeding 56kbps download and 15kbps upload. It does not matter what time of the day you choose. This is in the Sylvan Park neighborhood.

Google has a WiFi Discussion group where Google wanted people to post their complaints. A Google representative wifi4all would often reply about the complaints - there has been not a peep from him/her over the last month and a half when the complaints have been the most intense, when people could get online to complain either using friends or relative's connections (as they could never get a service quality sufficient even to complain!)

This service was provided to the City of Mountain View as thank you to the community of Mountain View, and as a public service. Google reaped plenty of PR benefit from this. However I believe that it never allocated resources sufficient to maintain the system adequately. Neither did it request the City of Mountain View to partake in the maintenance of the "Free" Service. The service itself, was not truly free for two reason's In order to get adequate reception indoors one had to purchase equipment that cost in 2009 around $100. Further unreliable service costs the users of the service quite dearly when it breaks down. Thus there are actual financial damages to the erstwhile users of the service.

It should also be mentioned that German courts have ruled that high speed internet access is a vital service necessary for all citizens no matter what their economic status. And I believe that the Wifi service was offered to the City of Mountain View by Google in the spirit espoused by the German court ruling.

Posted by Rajiv
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 2, 2013 at 9:33 pm

The Google WiFi Discussion Groups can be accessed at
Web Link

Posted by spike
a resident of The Crossings
on Feb 2, 2013 at 11:33 pm

Google provided exceptional free service and for that I am grateful. I am a big Google WiFi booster and I would brag to all about Google's terrific free service to the city of Mountain View. I have a Mac next to my window just a few yards from the node. Never needed a router. Those who sneer and say that "it's free so don't complain" don't realize what it's like to have no alternative but to really depend on unreliable internet service. I am poor and can't afford to purchase internet service. It's not an option for me. I don't have a lap top to drag around to hot spots. That's why Google is doing a great thing by providing WiFi for all and that really means everybody, the poor included. Unfortunately, their service declined considerably last year. Days without service. Incredibly frustrating. All downloads corrupted. A big problem during this crisis has been the lack of response by Google to the posts in the forum. These posts are the only way for Google to communicate with the public. Google, I am SO disappointed. I hope that Google will fix these problems and continue to provide it's free service to the City of Mountain View.

Posted by spike
a resident of The Crossings
on Feb 2, 2013 at 11:34 pm

I live at San Antonio Place, not The Crossings. Not sure what my Mountain View Neighborhood is.

Posted by Former User
a resident of Castro City
on Feb 3, 2013 at 7:02 am

I like the cost of my now useless wifi router reimbursed by Google!
Are you listening City Council?

Posted by Maria
a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 3, 2013 at 9:51 am

I am the one whose husband needed to book a plane ticket December 20 for a funeral. The reporter condensed the story. My husband had come home from work to book the ticket. It's not a good idea to conduct personal business on your work computer. I was at work, but my work does not include access to a computer. The web price for the ticket that day was $1700. The airlines' bereavement fare was $4,500. Would anyone use a credit card on a library computer or at a hotspot? The following day, the ticket was over $2,000 (close to Christmas). Our original modem cost $150, and we replaced it a few months ago with a new modem $100, thinking that network problems might be in our equipment. It turns out that both modems work just fine; the problem is Google's network. So now we are out $550. When my husband returned, we got Comcast internet, at this point, a much cheaper alternative.

Posted by Rajiv
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 3, 2013 at 12:10 pm

There are benefits of a well working Free internet service even to people who do not use the service, and rely upon a paid service. They get a better service from there ISP, and cheaper than they otherwise would. They provide higher access speed, and lower the costs to attract customers to their service. The Free service lays down the floor for what would be considered an acceptable service by any provider.

Google just lowered that floor for all Mountain View residents!

Posted by Ed
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 4, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Google Wifi has been a real godsend these last several years, up until about November of 2012. At that point the service became intermittent, but worse still would silently corrupt data (rendering any sercious work-related use of the network impossible). Google's unresponsiveness to their own complaint forum has been very disappointing as well. Thank you MV Voice for shedding a little light on this issue, maybe things will change for the better.

Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Jackson Park
on Feb 4, 2013 at 7:53 pm

I agree with Tony.

Have Google dismantle the network. It is basically useless at this point and anything Google agreed to provide at the time of the original deal isn't working.

Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Jackson Park
on Feb 4, 2013 at 7:59 pm

The city should issue a press release saying that it was a short-term success, but a long-term failure due to the inadequacies of the service provider (Google).

A more reliable service provider should be engaged to provide Internet services at the city's public library.

For the downtown area? Not important. The Google WiFi network hasn't been stable there for about a year, the disappearance of the network wouldn't make much of an impact at this point.

Posted by Robert
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 4, 2013 at 8:34 pm

I had been worried that Goggle notifications that iGoogle will be ending November 1 meant that Google was ending its free WiFi service in Mountain View. The announcement that they are planning an upgrade sounds like they are planning to continue the service. Does anyone know what their plans are beyond November 1?

Posted by Legal Wifi Router Owner
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 5, 2013 at 6:26 am

Either the city or Google should announce where the next Wifi Router buy-back program will be held. I'm looking forward to getting my roughly $200 back for the two I've bought over the years. I'd hate to see these things filling up the land fill or in the hands of criminals.

Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Jackson Park
on Feb 5, 2013 at 7:40 am


iGoogle has nothing to do with Google WiFi. They're two completely separate things.

iGoogle is a user-customizable portal, a la My Yahoo and going back to the old days of Excite, etc. Google is ditching it because the portal concept is passé, and most users are using browser extensions for similar functionality (e.g., chat widgets, sports scores, weather). iGoogle is available to users around the world.

Google WiFi is a free WiFi service restricted to Mountain View, California. Google WiFi doesn't work in Santa Clara. Or Salina, Kansas, or El Paso, Texas. Or anywhere else on the planet except Mountain View.

Assuming Google upgrades their wifi network, it is logical to assume that it will function beyond November 1, otherwise it would make no sense for them to pour in that kind of money for the upgrade.

Concerning iGoogle, it is likely that iGoogle users will see the classic Google search page, plus a small advisory to install the Google Chrome browser and customize it with extensions.

Posted by Viejo
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 5, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Anybody want an old 56K Ricochet wireless modem that Merticom gave away to teachers and others in the area? Mine worked great up until July 2001.

Posted by Greg Nelson
a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Google's response to this article/ongoing frustration of users - from a "communications associate" (how low on the corporate ladder is that position) is to say the least, lamentable -
"we are planning ... we are committed" Google blah blah blah - WHEN Google, this network needs fixing immediately!
Google wants all kinds of special considerations for its North Bayshore plans. Perhaps MV City Council should require Google to fix its 'free' network as a prerequisite to consider its requests in North Bayshore.
Time for Google to prove its corporate citizenship.

Posted by Rajiv
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 6, 2013 at 7:21 am

Well it appears that there has been some action on part of Google.

For the first time since Dec 20th, I can get fast download and upload speeds. I have to still check the data corruption issue.

My Speedtest this morning

Your IP:
Your Speed Result:
Download Speed: 1664 kbps (208 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 822 kbps (102.8 KB/sec transfer rate)

"ClientInfo": {
"SSID" : "GoogleWiFi",
"Channel" : "5",
"BSSID" : "00:0d:97:04:85:92",
"SNR" : "32 dB",
"Noise" : "-88 dBm",
"UplinkRate" : "54 Mbps",
"DownlinkRate" : "54 Mbps",
"ClientIPAddr" : "",
"ClientMACAddr" : "00:02:6F:5B:73:5F",
"RouterLocation" : "310 Sylvan Ave",
"RouterLatitude" : "37.385169",
"RouterLongitude" : "-122.060693"

Posted by Rajiv
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 6, 2013 at 7:39 am

The File corruption issue is still there. So that is the next thing that Google should take care of.

Posted by SomethingforNothing
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Feb 6, 2013 at 10:34 pm

I didn't expect much from this free service. You get what you pay for, right? Anyway, I thought they were just using us as guinea pigs on some big idea of theirs. I only tapped into it when my other non-free wifi went down. It worked briefly if I crouched with my laptop in a tight, remote corner of my living room.

Posted by Rajiv
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 7, 2013 at 7:41 am


For Google WiFi to work inside the house, one needs to invest a small sum of money (today less than $100 - less than the setup fees that most ISP's charge) to buy a WiFi modem that sits in a window facing the pole, or outside the house.

This typically resulted in download and upload speeds in excess of what some ISP's were providing at $20 a month. The Google Service forced those ISP's to increase their speeds to above what was being given by Google.

As I have stated above after the Google repair work, the speeds are on the order of 1.5 mbps down and 0.8 mbps up. Quite satisfactory for most tasks.

Posted by Merry Benezra
a resident of Castro City
on May 13, 2013 at 1:49 pm

I have lived here from 2006, and have never been able to rely on the Google transmitter that is just 25 feet from my window, even with a booster. It seems to me that Google got some favorable press for their good deed, and the residents of Mountain View got a joke. It's really just for outside use? Sorry, who uses Internet outside? I'm glad Google's karma is finally catching up to it, but I don't trust them to actually fix things.

Posted by Tom
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 1, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Went from faster than DSL to slower than dial-up over the past year or so. Used to see up to access points from home, now two or three. An embarrassment to Google.

Posted by reader
a resident of Castro City
on Jul 29, 2013 at 8:44 pm

if google ran 411 information in the old phone company days, when one asked, i need the number of my dentist, dr. wu, they would reply, ther is agood dentist near you, dr. li, and a god eye doctor also, and a book about wu tang clan available at books inc.
just think waht library information would be like if they ran it. i have heard more than half of all books on google books have seriously wrong bibliographic information attached to them, giving odd dates, authors, etc. maybe google is not really serious about anything except themselves. they make money now, but can they when things change?

Posted by Jorge
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Oct 15, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I tried it today for the first time while waiting for the bus and, although a bit slow, it worked alright and let me make use of that waiting time. Even if it's not reliable enough to replace paid service for everyone, that's not a reason to just shut it off as some people are asking: It can still be convenient outdoors. A convenience being paid fully by Google (or do you think there are no costs involved for them?).

People asking to be reimbursed of the money they paid for WiFi modems, should include in the sum the money they saved by not paying a monthly fee to any company for a few years. As someone said, you guys are unbelievably entitled.

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