The Original Google Wi-Fi Wasn’t a Router, and It was Free

Google did something pretty cool years ago and no one even noticed it. Sometime before 2010, Google took it upon itself to provide free broadband Wi-Fi access to the town of Mountain View, where google was based. The service was kept free, all funded by Google, until 2010. After that it was turned into a paid service, and then in 2014 it was shut down and Google provided them with a new form of public Wi-Fi.

In 2009, Google utilized over 500 Tropos networks, MetroMesh routers for hotspots that were mounted mainly on utility poles. At the time, over 95 percent of mountain View had free, public access to Wi-Fi hotspots. In 2009 it served over 16,000 different users a month, and moved over 500 GB of data in a 24-hour period.

Google made sure to have three aggregation points where all the traffic would filter through.  GoogleWiFi provided no protection. GoogleWiFiSecure provided all the encryption you could handle. GoogleWiFi users were only required to have a working Google account. Google provided a free VPN service to users called Google Secure Access and maintained a pretty sizeable list of quality VPN software providers. Different from the residential service, this service doesn’t use a NAT, or Network Address Translation. Instead, it provides a routable IP Address from a DHCP pool with a new, one-hour use DHCP lease under the domain wifi.google.com. This means someone using a laptop on the go in Mountain View could use the same IP address for up to the one-hour lease time.

This service was announced by Google in 2005, and went live in 2006. In the summer of 2012 the users to Googles free service declined dramatically. Some neighborhood users complained about not being able to connect, or that connections, once obtained, had other issues.

“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,” a statement said.

ComputerWorld reported that a field test done by IDG News Service revealed that it was almost impossible to get a working connection in multiple points in the city. City Hall and the library were included in these spots. Library patrons switched from Google’s free service back to the wired connections the library offered at most of its tables.

It’s unsure what went wrong with Google’s awesome idea, just that it stopped working. Google speculated that all the video streaming was to blame, as it saturates the system’s capacity, causing malfunctions.

Since Google Wi-Fi has come and gone, the tech giant has come up with other plans.

In 2013, Starbucks began replacing ATT Wi-Fi with Google Wi-Fi.  Its caught on in over 7,000 Starbucks locations to date.

The company also plans to turn more than 10,000 old phone booths in New York City into Wi-Fi hotspots powered by ad. The booths will provide free domestic phone calls, free phone charging, as well as being information centers for the city.

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