Google Mesh Makes Good

Google Inc. has announced that its municipal Wi-Fi network in Mountain View, Calif., is growing in traffic by around 10 percent each month. Its welcome news in an industry plagued with business model issues.

The free service, launched earlier this year, is advertising-supported. The 12 square-mile network has an average of 15,000 unique users each month, uses 400-plus mesh routers and carries 300GB of data each day.

Google said the mesh effort is part of its commitment to promoting alternative platforms for people to access the Web, no matter where you are, what you’re doing or what device you’re using.

The announcement comes in the wake of a high-profile battle in San Francisco over municipal mesh plans, EarthLink Inc.s recent dismal report on its muni Wi-Fi business and a Forrester Research report characterizing the market as a bumpy, unpaved road with low consumer-demand.

Forrester reported that many of those involved in rolling out Wi-Fi for cities and towns are struggling to realize a financial ROI on their wireless networking projects. Thats because consumer adoption of Wi-Fi is still a homebound phenomenon: Today, 76 percent of Wi-Fi users say that they’ve used wireless Internet at home via a router that extends a DSL or cable line and 26 percent have used it at work, yet only 5 percent have logged on to city Wi-Fi at a park or other outdoor space.

This has led to EarthLink, MetroFi Inc. and other service providers eschewing the free service model, now demanding the municipality shoulder some of the financial responsibility for the networks by becoming anchor tenants, or primary users, of the network.

Google Inc.

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