Google WiFi is a municipal wireless network deployed in Mountain View, California. It is entirely funded by Google and installed primarily on Mountain View lightposts. Google had committed to keeping the service free until 2010. As of October 2013 the service is still being offered.
As of 2009, Google uses over 500 Tropos Networks MetroMesh routers acting as access points mounted primarily on utility poles providing usable signal and broadband internet access to over 95% of the city's area of 12 square miles (31 km2). As of 2009, it serves over 16,000 unique users each month and handles over 500 gigabytes of data in 24 hours. There are three aggregation points (or base stations) that all traffic is forwarded to. The radios in the access points offer both GoogleWiFi (which has no encryption) and GoogleWiFiSecure (which uses WPA to encrypt the over-the-air traffic) service set identifiers (SSID). Google WiFi only requires its end users have a Google Account. Google offers a free virtual private network (VPN) software client called Google Secure Access (GSA) and maintains a list of other recommended third-party VPN software packages. Unlike a residential gateway, the network does not use network address translation (NAT): it provides a routable IP Address from a DHCP pool with a one-hour "DHCP lease" under the DNS domain wifi.google.com directly to the client PC. A mobile laptop user can roam through Mountain View and maintain the same IP address for at least the one-hour lease time.1
While the equipment is of high quality and well-placed, actual coverage with a laptop with built-in Wi-Fi hardware is less than 100% of the claimed area; the system works well in commercially zoned areas but residential coverage areas are still spotty from block to block. There are areas in the city which do not have city owned light poles and thus do not have routers.2
Around the summer of 2012, the network declined significantly.citation needed5 Users in some neighborhoods could not get connections, and the connections that were obtained in other areas had problems. Mountain View stated, "The city has received many complaints in recent months regarding the performance and reliability of the free Google Wi-Fi system in Mountain View, particularly at our library."6
ComputerWorld reported that "An August field test by IDG News Service found it impossible to get a working connection at numerous points around the city, including City Hall and the main library."7 Users at the library do not use the Google WiFi connection but rather the wired Ethernet connections that the library makes available at many tables.
- Google Wifi September 11, 2007
- Google WiFi help group
- Slashdot: Google WiFi+VPN Confirmed September 20, 2006
- Free citywide WiFi in Mountain View August 16, 2006
- DeBolt 2013 quotes a library employee stated the "service became noticeably poor in January."
- Colaner, Seth (9 October 2013), Google WiFi Falling Down As Mountain View Moves To Get Off Network, hothardware.com
- Williams, Martyn (9 October 2013), "Mountain View to partially replace Google Wi-Fi: A recent test found it impossible to get a working connection on the company-sponsored network in the city", ComputerWorld
- DeBolt, Daniel (3 October 3 2013), City Hall to switch off Google WiFi, Mountain View Voice, "We started to get a lot of complaints," said Steve Rodriguez, the city's IT manager. "We generally get them in the library. From what I can tell it's pretty much not working anymore. We get asked a lot, 'What is going on with the Google wireless?'" Rodriguez's response? "I don't know."
- DeBolt 2013, stating "The company has said increased demands for bandwidth from increased use of sites like Netflix and Hulu have overwhelmed the original infrastructure."
- Williams, Martyn (8 August 2013), Bad connections dog Google's Mountain View Wi-Fi network, PC World
- Tibken, Shara, At Starbucks, AT&T is out and Google is in for Wi-fi, CNET.com