San Franciscans, rejoice! You can now get free Wi-Fi Internet access at over 30 public locations in the city, including parks, plazas, and recreation centers, thanks to a grant from Google.
The service was officially unveiled yesterday by Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Mark Farrell, more than a year after the search giant offered a grant of $608,000 to help the city expand its wireless internet network. The money enabled the city to purchase and install Wi-Fi equipment, and will also help cover maintenance costs for two years.
“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.
Alamo Square, Union Square, Boeddeker Park, Balboa Park, Richmond Recreation Center, and Tenderloin Children’s Rec Center are among the places where you can now log on by choosing the “#sfwifi” option on your devices.
According to city officials, the service will offer unhindered Internet access and users' data will not be collected. "It is full broadband class speed", said Miguel Gamino, acting San Francisco Chief Information Officer, adding that the experience would be similar to what you'd get with services like Xfinity or U-verse.
Rodney Chin, executive director of the Buchanan YMCA, said the step will go a long way in helping low-income kids who require Internet access for their online homework assignments. “It’s a step toward levelling the playing field”, he said.
Free Internet access is already available in parts of City Hall, San Francisco International Airport, public libraries, along the Market Street corridor, and at public housing developments.
The news comes just months after Google started offering free public Wi-Fi access to New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood.