Google Offers Free Wi-Fi in New York City's Chelsea District

By Tony Rizzo January 08, 2013

After a great deal of mystery that created an interesting level of anticipation – along with some fanfare – Google, with an assist from both New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York's Senator Chuck Schumer, announced at a press conference this morning that Google is now offering free wireless Internet access in select parts of New York’s Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan.

The Wi-Fi network doesn’t require a password and is already available as of today. Joining Senator Schumer and Mayor Bloomberg was Ben Fried, Google's chief information officer. The three are shown below cutting the cord (actually they're Ethernet cables) at the press event.

Image via Spencer Platt, Getty Images

For Google, this effort represents the continuation of working with New York City to promote technology within the city. In 2012, for example, Google donated office space to Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology for an engineering school, while the institutions mentioned build a permanent home on Roosevelt Island.

The new network fits neatly into the city's ongoing efforts to nurture its Silicon Alley ecosystem, and its expanding collection of startups, most of which are based in Manhattan.

Wi-Fi will be available to thousands of New Yorkers between Gansevoort Street and 19th Street from 8th Avenue to the West Side Highway.

Google, of course, always benefits from any wider access to the Internet – the more users to put ads in front of the better. That said, as we noted above, the service is free to use, but it is also free of any advertising, aside from a message that Google is the network's provider.

Bloomberg noted that, “New York is determined to become the world’s leading digital city, and universal access to high-speed Internet is one of the core building blocks of that vision. Free Wi-Fi across this part of Chelsea takes us another step closer to that goal. New York would like to extend Wi-Fi to all neighborhoods eventually.”

Not to be outdone by the mayor, Schumer added that, "We all know New York’s next job growth engine is the tech industry. This is the future.”

The cost to build out the network was all of $115,000 (a true drop of water in the ocean to Google) and it will cost in the neighborhood of $45,000 a year to maintain. Chelsea Improvement Co., a not-for-profit neighborhood development group, will pick up one third of the costs, with Google contributing the other two-thirds.

Dan Biederman, Chelsea Improvement’s president, said the service will be run as a pilot program over the next two years. We're not entirely sure we understand the need for a "pilot program" here; it's all rather straightforward as far as Wi-Fi deployments go, and it's interesting to note as well that the network is being implemented in one of New York City's wealthier and highly visible neighborhoods.

Google has maintained a free Wi-Fi network in its home town of Mountain View, California for many years, dating back to 2006. More interestingly, last summer the company introduced Google Fiber, a super high-speed fiber network in Kansas City, Missouri that delivers gigabit-speed Ethernet connections, roughly 100 times faster than most high-speed Internet services.

The new Chelsea neighborhood Wi-Fi isn't quite that fast, but it’ll be welcomed nonetheless.

Edited by Braden Becker

TechZone360 Senior Editor

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