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Free Wi-Fi still a goer in San Fran'

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While municipal Wi-Fi systems are being switched off from Philadelphia to Cupertino, San Francisco is planning to have the whole city connected wirelessly by the end of the year.

Haight-Ashbury and the Mission District are already covered by the "Free The Net" project, a mesh network run by Meraki and paid for as a research project by the company, which is backed by Google amongst others. But yesterday Mayor Gavin Newsom said the project will be available to all San Francisco residents by the end of the year.

This follows on from the last attempts to wireless-up the city, in a joint venture with Google and Earthlink. That project foundered on privacy concerns and funding problems, having someone else to pay for it might help this time around. Additionally this time Google is one step removed, which might distract those with privacy concerns.

Certainly municipal Wi-Fi isn't having a lot of success around the US. Earthlink is pulling out of its Philadelphia deployment after offering to hand over the infrastructure to anyone who wanted it and failing to find a buyer. Meanwhile MetroFi is to shut down its networks in Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Cupertino and San Jose on June 20th, and is mostly concerned with avoiding the cost of ripping out the infrastructure they've got installed in lamp-posts around the area.

Residents of Geneva and St. Charles, Kane County are still waiting for MeshLinx Wireless to start installing municipal Wi-Fi, which could find itself stillborn if WiMAX deployments go ahead as expected.

Around the world the idea of cities providing a low-bandwidth Wi-Fi service to their residents for free has been considered, promoted, deployed and bankrupted time and time again, but that's not stopping San Franciso – the city that still wants everyone to wear flowers in its hair, and with a mayor convinced that municipal Wi-Fi should be his legacy. ®

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