SF Supes Vote to Lace City with New Fiber Optic Networks
You have probably come to notice that San Francisco is old… like really old. With an old city comes old infrastructure – from a time before the Internet.
That’s why in some of the oldest parts of the city, there is no option for high speed Internet and the only service that is available is dial-up, like being stuck in a 1990s purgatory where your only browser choices are AOL and Netscape.
Thankfully, this week the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on measures to increase the amount of fiber optic service within the city, and pair the installation of new fiber optic networks at the same time as street construction.
The supervisors are conjuring up what The Examiner calls a “dig once” plan – a plan that holds city backing to ensure that new fiber optic conduits are being set up at the same time that regular roadwork is being done. Ideally, this would increase the city’s high-speed Internet service, without increasing roadwork by adding on to the amount of normal maintenance the city already requires. This would in turn lower the cost of installing the new networks.
The city already utilizes a large fiber optic network to service public services like police stations, public safety radio, and city office buildings. Additionally, part of the existing network services the free Wi-Fi along Market Street, in city hall, and the recently announced 32 public parks and spaces recently added to the network.
The city is currently working on connecting the city’s health clinics and libraries, with broader plans of continuing to expand free Internet service throughout the city.
Bridging the Digital Divide
As previously reported by Reset, San Francisco teamed up with Google to connect 32 public parks and recreational centers to free Wi-Fi service last Wednesday. The project is part of a concerted effort to “bridge the digital divide,” by offering Internet access to a wider range of citizens.
The program is the part of a “broader vision of providing Internet access for all San Franciscans,” according to San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell, who originally sought the partnership with Google.
The project was funded in part with a $600,000 gift from Google, to the city, last year. According to SFGate, the Department of Technology spent the last year setting up the network and running tests to make sure it was ready for the influx of connections. The networks were supposed to open in the spring, but were delayed due to the installation and testing time, according to the Examiner.
A similar program was introduced to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2001, but the plans to cover the city in Wi-Fi at that time, did not pan out.
Along with the current networks in place, those opened Wednesday morning are being reconfigured to eventually all operate under the uniform wireless network “#sfwifi.”
Some public spaces that are under construction and receiving upgrades, such as Mission Dolores Park, will have their wireless networks activated when they are finished undergoing renovations.
The Examiner reported that as last Tuesday’s tests, some of the locations were seeing download speeds as high as 30 megabits per second, although the average speed was 10-15 Mbps upload and 7-10 Mbps download – not too shabby for free, outdoor Wi-Fi.
Equal access for the community
By connecting more San Franciscans to the Internet, they are in turn also increasingly connected to things like public programs and information that can be accessed online, or online accessible education or healthcare. As an added bonus, the networks will also boost communication amongst city employees.
The 32 public spaces chosen for the network were not selected by accident – the spaces are evenly distributed throughout the city. This even distribution is referred to as “bridging the digital divide,” a term used by city officials to explain the socioeconomically unequal distribution of Internet access in urban areas. Studies show that low-income neighborhoods and families tend to be less likely to have access to the Internet.
San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee commended the project as a great team effort between the public industry and private companies.
How’s your connection? Let us know in the comments below!
Here is a list of the newly added free public Wi-Fi hotspots:
1. ALAMO SQUARE
2. BALBOA PARK
3. BERNAL HEIGHTS RECREATION CENTER
4. BOEDDEKER PARK
5. CHINESE RECREATION CENTER
6. CIVIC CENTER PLAZA
7. CORONA HEIGHTS
8. CROCKER AMAZON PLAYGROUND
9. DUBOCE PARK
10. EUREKA VALLEY REC CENTER
11. GENE FRIEND REC CENTER/SOMA
12. HAMILTON REC CENTER
13. HUNTINGTON PARK
14. JOSEPH LEE RECREATION CENTER
15. JUSTIN HERMAN PLAZA
16. MARGARET HAYWARD
17. MARINA GREEN
18. MINNIE & LOVIE WARD REC CENTER
19. MISSION DOLORES PARK
20. MISSION REC CENTER
21. PALEGA RECREATION CENTER
22. PORTSMOUTH SQUARE
23. RICHMOND RECREATION CENTER
24. ST MARY’S PLAYGROUND
25. ST MARY’S SQUARE
26. SUE BIERMAN PARK
27. SUNNYSIDE PLAYGROUND
28. SUNSET PLAYGROUND
29. TENDERLOIN CHILDREN’S REC CENTER
30. UNION SQUARE
31. UPPER NOE RECREATION CENTER
32. WASHINGTON SQUARE
** MISSION DOLORES PARK and BOEDDEKER PARK are currently under construction; Wi-Fi installation at these locations will resume once construction is complete. Via: SF Board of Supervisors