San Francisco gets free hotspot Wi-Fi up and down Market Street

Date: December 16,, 2013

Summary: The new Ruckus and Layer42 built network extends from the Castro to the Embarcadero. It’s still short of San Francisco’s planned muni-Wi-Fi network from a decade ago, but it covers the city’s primary thoroughfare.

San Francisco’s hopes of getting citywide Wi-Fi were dashed long ago, but the city is starting to enact pieces of that former dream. On Monday, it launched a free hotspot network along the length of its main commercial corridor Market Street, using equipment donated by outdoor Wi-Fi specialist Ruckus Wireless and fiber backhaul donated by Layer42.

The network starts at the Market and Castro Street intersection and goes all the way to the Bay, culminating at one of the city’s busiest pedestrian areas at the Embarcadero. You can access the network through the “_SanFrancisco_free_WiFi” network name that will pop up in your Wi-Fi options.

The Market Street project joins another initiative from Google to blanket SF city parks with free — yet ad-supported — Wi-Fi hotspots. Those two projects hardly equal a full municipal Wi-Fi network, but like many other cities San Francisco seems to have abandoned the idea of citywide access and has taken a much more targeted approach to public internet access. In New York, there are several projects going on to build hotspot networks in neighborhood hubs and commercial corridors as well as bring Wi-Fi to its parks.

And while municipal Wi-Fi plans have largely stalled, private business has filled in much of the gaps. According to a recent study from Devicescape, San Francisco’s central business district has twice the percentage of open business Wi-Fi access points as New York.

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