San Francisco rolls out free Wi-Fi access at 32 public places, thanks to Google partnership

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San Francisco launched free Wi-Fi access at more than 30 public parks, plazas and recreation areas on Wednesday, thanks to a grant from Google.

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"Wi-Fi in our city's parks is another step toward a larger vision of connectivity for our City as a whole, bridging the digital divide and ensuring that our diverse communities have access to innovation," Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement.

Internet giant Google donated about $600,000 to help the city buy and install Wi-Fi equipment and cover maintenance cost for two years, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

"This network will make the web more accessible than ever for thousands of our neighbor — getting online is as easy as heading to the local park," Rebecca Prozan, Google's public policy and government affairs manager, said in a statement.

Union Square, Balboa Park, Alamo Square and Children's Tenderloin Rec Center are among the places where people can log on by choosing the "#sfwifi" option on their smartphones, tablets or laptops.

City officials have been talking about providing free Wi-Fi citywide for the past seven years, but the rollout has been slower than anticipated.

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Free access is already available in parts of City Hall, public libraries, San Francisco International Airport and along the Market Street corridor.

The free Internet initiative will help many low-income students who need Internet access to do online homework assignments, and parents can use e-mail more easily to communicate with the school, said Rodney Chin, executive director of the Buchanan YMCA.

"It's a step toward leveling the playing field," Chin told the Chronicle.

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Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com