Google This

Google, the search engine students know and love, has provided yet another reason for UVMers to leave Burlington upon graduation: Google recently announced it wants to connect all of San Francisco to the Internet with a free wireless service, creating a launch pad for the online search engine leader to leap into the telecommunications industry. Google filed an application late to provide wireless, or “Wi-Fi,” service that would enable anyone in San Francisco to connect to the Internet for free. Google submitted its 100-page bid in response to a request from Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is looking for a company to finance a free wireless network to lower the financial barriers to Internet access in his city. More than a dozen other bidders are competing with Google for this opportunity. This risky (and potentially expensive) expansive behavior is a potential way to ensure people can connect to Google’s search engine anytime, from anywhere. Google spokesman Nate Tyler said that the company doesn’t have any plans to offer a Wi-Fi service outside the San Francisco Bay area. (San Francisco maintains a perfect size, diversity of businesses, and demographic of internet users … too bad Vermonters.) “Unwiring San Francisco is a way for Google to support our local Bay Area community,” Tyler said. “It is also an opportunity to make San Francisco a test-ground for new location-based applications and services that enable people to find relevant information exactly when and where they need it.” If it wants, Google has both the financial capabilities and the incentive to get into Wi-Fi. Analysts say that the question is whether the company has the telecommunications expertise to build and maintain a Wi-Fi service. Google has nearly $7.1 billion in cash, having just raised $4.17 billion in stock offering completed last month. Their second stock issuance was in the form of a multiple of pi, 3.14159265: they offered 14,159,265 new shares. (those digits are the first 8 digits after the decimal point in pi). That stock sale prompted several industry analysts to conclude Google might be preparing to build its own high-speed Internet network. Building its own wireless Internet network connection also would help Google save money by reducing the fees that it pays to the telecommunications middlemen that provide a bridge between the company’s data centers and internet service providers whenever web surfers make a search request. Any free internet access service would threaten to siphon revenue from subscription internet service providers like SBC Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. that have invested heavily in high-speed connections that depend on phone lines and cable modems. A Google Wi-Fi service might successfully divert users from popular websites, including Yahoo, MSN and America Online, if it’s set up to automatically make Google’s home page the first stopping point. So, while Burlington doesn’t get offers like this one, at least we can sit back, pay for internet, and see whether Google’s plan will prove to be successful.