Google Co-Founder Larry Page announced that Google is launching a new startup named Sidewalk Labs by acquiring two companies behind the recent New York City LinkNYC initiative. The initiative is designed to convert old pay phones into free public Wi-Fi hubs. Immediately after acquiring both companies, Google merged them into one entity with a singular purpose. To bring Wi-Fi to everyone, everywhere, for free, by utilizing existing infrastructure points in cities, nationally and eventually globally.
Control Group was providing the interface of the new hubs, while Titan was overseeing the advertising and marketing that pay for the project. Now under the same Google flag, the new venture is named Intersection and will begin to utilize everything from pay phones to bus stops as it’s underlying technology base.
“The vision really is to make cities connected places where you can walk down any street and have access to free ultra high speed Wi-Fi,” said Dan Doctoroff, the former CEO of Bloomberg and former deputy mayor of New York City, who now heads up Sidewalk Labs. “The possibilities from there are just endless.”
Right now in the United States roughly 55 million people don’t have access to high-speed broadband according to FCC reports. Many are in rural areas not yet targeted by Intersection, but once the main population hubs and major cities are sorted out it would be a logical next phase to work outward toward more rural areas as well.
“We think a lot about equity, and here we have a project that’s going to bring connectivity to people for free and fulfill the needs of government to generate revenues,” Doctoroff said. “That’s one of the beauties of doing something in New York first,” he says. “What happens here is seen everywhere.”
As mobile device proliferation and market penetration continues to expand each year, the necessary connectivity has lagged behind in many places as for-profit entities continue to find ways to block municipal Wi-Fi efforts and other attempts to make the world an ‘always on’ environment. Google has a lot to gain by having everyone connected all the time, and Intersection is another step toward that goal.