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Wi-Fi deal ‘seconds away,’ mayor says

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The deal that will blanket San Francisco’s 49 square miles with free wireless Internet service is “seconds way” from completion, Mayor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday.

Contract negotiations between The City and two high-tech giants, Earthlink and Google, have been ongoing for more than 10 months.

While Newsom said last month that a deal could be reached before the end of 2006, he was no less optimistic on Tuesday about the negotiations.

Chris Vein, director of The City’s technology office, who has been negotiating daily with the Internet companies, met with Newsom on Tuesday afternoon to update him on the negotiations. After the meeting, Newsom said the deal was “seconds away” from completion.

The deal would be finalized “soon,” said Vein, who remains tight-lipped about negotiations and has shied away from pinpointing a specific date.

As part of the deal, Earthlink would build and maintain the wireless network and Google would provide the Internet service. Residents would be able to choose from using a free service offering a connection of 300 kilobits per second, or pay about $20 per month for a speedier service at one megabit per second.

The completion of negotiations is not, however, the end of the road. The Board of Supervisors would have to approve the contract, and some supervisors have suggested that The City should own its own wireless network.

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick has requested a report on how The City can set up its own network, saying a publicly owned wireless network could better serve the interests of the residents.

Anticipating the opposition, Newsom said he hoped the Board of Supervisors would sign off on the deal as presented.


Staff writer Bonnie Eslinger contributed to this report.

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