Tech giant Google has announced it is offering free Wi-Fi to the Chelsea area of New York, close to the search engine giant’s huge headquarters.
The new service, the result of a public-private partnership by Google, New York city officials and a non-profit development organization, will give free Internet access to hundreds of thousands of people very year.
According to Google, free Wi-Fi is now available outdoors in the Chelsea area “roughly between Gansevoort St and 19 St from 8th Ave to the West Side Highway as well as the neighbourhood’s public spaces, including the Chelsea Triangle, 14th Street Park, and Gansevoort Plaza”.
The Wi-Fi network will be easy to access as it won’t need a password.
Ben Fried, who is Google’s chief information officer, said the firm was “proud to provide free Wi-Fi in the neighbourhood we have called home for over six years”.
He added: “This network will not only be a resource for the 2,000+ residents of the Fulton Houses, it will also serve the 5,000+ student population of Chelsea as well as the hundreds of workers, retail customers and tourists who visit our neighbourhood every day.”
Since Google moved into the former Port Authority building at 111 Eighth Avenue, the firm has been working to help jumpstart New York’s tech economy.
Officials in New York were full of praise for the initiative, describing the move as another hop forward toward the city’s aim to become one of the globe’s most important technology centres.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement: “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. Thanks to Google, free Wi-Fi across this part of Chelsea takes us another step closer to that goal.”
Mayor Bloomberg said he would eventually like to see free Internet access extended across the entire city of New York.
It’s all part of Google’s bid to foster a technology community in Silicon Alley, New York’s answer, and rival, to Silicon Valley in California.
The move comes after previous network provision initiatives by Google. The search engine firm already hosts a Wi-Fi network in California, around its base in Mountain View. And Google has also been looking at a fibre broadband project in Kansas City.
The Kansas City project delivers superfast one gigabit broadband speeds, which Google is offering to consumers along with an optional television package. So far, two Kansas City neighbourhoods can take advantage of the scheme, with rapid expansion planned for 2013.
Users can either pay monthly fees to have the service or, if they’d prefer not to sign up to a contract, can instead get free standard broadband from Google as long as they first pay a one-off fibre construction fee of $300.
The plan is to expand the fibre service to other regions in the US if it proves successful in Kansas. Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt, said: “It’s actually not an experiment, we’re actually running it as a business.”