Friday, December 23, 2005

San Francisco seeks proposals for Wi-Fi

Mayor Gavin Newsom's quest to blanket San Francisco with wireless Internet access took a big step forward Thursday, when the city opened formal bidding on the project.

Companies are being asked to provide free high-speed service to users -- whether at home, at work or in the park -- at no cost to the city. The companies will also be required to provide a premium level of paid service with 1 megabit-per-second download speeds at prices that are less than commercial rates.

If the plan is realized, San Francisco will be one of a handful of cities to offer free Wi-Fi service. All users will need is a Wi-Fi compatible computer or other device to get online.

"We are definitely on the cusp of making Wi-Fi possible, which we believe will open up economic and cultural opportunities to people who haven't had access to the Internet," city spokeswoman Jennifer Petrucione said.

The city's request for proposals does not require that the network be city-owned. The winning bidder will be required to provide outdoor coverage of 95 percent of the city and 90 percent coverage of all perimeter rooms in buildings. The contract will be for between five and 10 years.

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