San Francisco’s plan to launch free public Wi-Fi throughout parks and other public spaces is nearing completion. After receiving a $600,000 donation from Google in the summer of 2013, the city announced plans to bring Wi-Fi service to 31 public locations sometime in 2014. The technical installation will be completed by the end of August, and a formal announcement of the new service will be made sometime in September, Acting CIO Miguel Gamiño told Government Technology.
A larger vision of a citywide Wi-Fi network was proposed by former CIO Marc Touitou, who announced in June that he was taking a position as CIO for the United Nations' World Health Organization based in Switzerland.
“I think what this is showing is that while it may be more of a pragmatic approach, the city is clearly committed, the mayor is committed, and we’re making meaningful progress and big steps toward that broader municipal Wi-Fi experience,” Gamiño said. “It’s not just having coverage in lots of places, but it’s having good performance and security and consistency across those different locations. It’s a big step on a bunch of levels, I think.”
The network is to be largely online by the end of August, Gamiño said, with work left in optimizing the network and unifying the SSID with other Wi-Fi-enabled public spaces, like the city’s Market Street service.
The service is now available in at least 10 of the 31 original locations, including the Gene Friend Recreation Center, Joseph Lee Recreation Center, Mission Recreation Center, Palega Recreation Center, Union Square, Tenderloin Recreation Center, Harvey Milk Recreation Center, Bernal Recreation Center, St. Mary's Recreation Center and Sunset Recreation Center, the San Francisco Examiner reported. Two parks – Mission Dolores and Boeddeker – are now undergoing unrelated construction, and will take an additional 30 days to join the Wi-Fi project once the construction is completed, Gamiño said.
The timeline of the project has become an object of some contention -- the San Francisco Examiner reported that Supervisor Mark Farrell’s office declared a spring 2014 completion date. The release from Farrell's office, however, was based on preliminary assumptions early in the process, Gamiño said. "We later fleshed out the project details and established the summer timeline that was later released, and [that] we are currently on time with."
And this timeline, he said, is what was necessary to do it right to make sure that we properly install, configure and test. "There’s no barrier for me to point to,” he said, noting that the city faced no significant challenges throughout the project.. “We’re doing it properly, we’re doing it within the timeline that we provided of being summer. From my perspective we’re on time and on track to do it well.”
This story was updated at 10:20 p.m. on Aug. 8 to clarify details of the Wi-Fi project timeline.
Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.