14 months in, Google's gift begat free public Wi-Fi.
After months of beta testing, San Francisco’s parks Wi-Fi network is officially online, the city announced at the Tenderloin Rec Center on Oct. 1. The project, which brings free Wi-Fi service to 32 parks, plazas and public spaces, was chiefly funded by a $608,000 donation made by Google in July 2013. Residents and visitors can identify and access the network through a single network ID called #SFWiFi.
“This is all about giving connection and access to everybody, so you don’t have to be a technologicallysavvy person to figure out how to locate and connect to a Wi-Fi signal," said Acting CIO Miguel Gamino in an interview with Government Technology. "You don’t have to have money or resources to buy your own at home. This is all about making it very easy and very accessible to everybody, because it’s the opportunity to level the playing field and generate jobs and economic opportunity.”
Mayor Edwin Lee said the network was a top priority for his administration. “Wi-Fi in our city’s parks is another step toward a larger vision of connectivity for our city as a whole, bridging the digital divide and ensuring that our diverse communities have access to innovation,” Lee said in a statement.
Supervisor Mark Farrell, under whose office the project was administered, noted the project’s unveiling as a step toward bridging the digital divide. “Community groups and nonprofits who regularly utilize this space can now take advantage of Internet access where it did not exist before,” Farrell said in the statement.
A press release published by the city predicted the Wi-Fi service will also bring increased efficiency to the city’s recreation and parks department staff, and empower community programs to reach enhanced outcomes.
The new Wi-Fi locations are an extension of existing city efforts tracing back to 2005. Free city Wi-Fi can also be accessed through 28 libraries, as well as through museums, hospitals and public sites like City Hall.