EarthLink Inc. and Google Inc. have finalized a four-year deal to provide free wireless Internet service throughout San Francisco after seven months of sometimes-tense negotiations that stalled the city's effort to ensure all its residents, visitors and businesses have easy access to the Web.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom signed off on the contract Friday, but the details still require the approval of the city's Board of Supervisors and Public Utilities Commission.
A five-member panel picked EarthLink and Google to build the project in April, with the goal of having the system running by the end of 2006. It now appears that the wireless fidelity, or Wi-Fi, service won't be available throughout San Francisco until early 2008, although limited access may be available as early as April.
Google launched a free Wi-Fi service in August in its home town of Mountain View, Calif., making the 11.5-square-mile city of 72,000 people the largest U.S. community with free Wi-Fi.
The $14-million to $17-million cost of building and maintaining the Wi-Fi system will be shouldered by EarthLink.