Free Wi-Fi may come to a vote this week

Mayor Gavin Newsom’s high-profile agreement with Google and EarthLink to set up a free citywide wireless network is positioned this week to clear key hurdles that could finally land it before the full Board of Supervisors for a vote.

The agreement, which Newsom submitted to the Board of Supervisors for approval in January, has met with criticism by some members of the board and faces opposition from the San Francisco Neighborhood Antenna Free Union, or SNAFU, which has requested an environmental review of the impact of the more than 2,000 antennas that would be installed to setup the wireless, or Wi-Fi, network. A review would take about a year.

On Tuesday, the full Board of Supervisors will vote on SNAFU’s request. SNAFU claims that the antennas emit a radio frequency at about the same level as cell phone antennas, which can cause health problems. The frequencies are considered within an acceptable range under federal guidelines.

On Wednesday, the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the Wi-Fi agreement. Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who chairs the committee, said he would introduce an amendment to the agreement that he thinks would likely ensure its passage by the full board.

“With some modifications, we’re moving in the right direction and should be able to get to ‘yes,’” Peskin said.

Those modifications include increasing the free Wi-Fi speed that Google would offer under the proposal from 300 kilobits per second to at least 500 kilobits per second, decreasing the length of the contract from 16 years to eight years, and giving The City the option to purchase the network after eight years at a fair market value price.

Google and EarthLink would have to agree to those changes. “We look forward to working with Supervisor Peskin on hammering out the best possible agreement,” Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard said.

One of the most vocal critics of the agreement is Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who has advocated that The City move forward on its own to set up a Wi-Fi network, which he said could provide better service to residents. McGoldrick objects to giving up public assets for what he considers not enough money and believes the free service is not fast enough.

Under the agreement, Google would provide the free Wi-Fi while EarthLink would provide a faster Wi-Fi service of 1 megabit per second at a monthly charge of $19.95. EarthLink would pay The City about $2 million during the initial four-year term of the contract.

jsabatini@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A health care worker receives one of the first COVID-19 vaccine doses at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Tuesday Dec. 15, 2020. (Courtesy SFgov)
SF to open three large sites for COVID-19 vaccinations

Breed: ‘We need more doses. We are asking for more doses’

Tongo Eisen-Martin, a Bernal Heights resident, named San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Tongo Eisen-Martin becomes San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate

Bernal Heights resident Tongo Eisen-Martin has become San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate.… Continue reading

Homeless people's tents can be seen on Golden Gate Avenue in the Tenderloin on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 16, 2020. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/S.F. Examiner)
Statewide business tax could bring new funds to combat homelessness

San Francisco could get more than $100 million a year for housing, rental assistance, shelter beds

The Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco (a mural by artist Jamie Treacy is pictued) has a lineup of free online programming including activities for youngsters scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18. (Courtesy Demetri Broxton/Museum of the African Diaspora)
Stanford, Museum of the African Diaspora host MLK Day activities

Online offerings include films, music, discussion

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi presides the US House of Representatives vote on the impeachment of US President Donald Trump at the US Capitol, January 13, 2021, in Washington, DC. - The Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives on January 13 opened debate on a historic second impeachment of President Donald Trump over his supporters' attack of the Capitol that left five dead. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
House votes 232-197 to impeach Trump a second time

Focus shifts to Senate, where McConnell has signaled he may not stand by president

Most Read