How Did Google Pick That Manhattan Borough for Wi-Fi Coverage?

Google  (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) took time out from this week's tech festivities in Las Vegas to make some news on the East Coast. Big G announced that the Chelsea neighborhood in New York City has been blanketed in totally free Wi-Fi coverage, in an effort to expand easy Internet access to anyone who wants it.

This isn't Google's first rodeo. The company has already funded similar all-access Wi-Fi zones around its headquarters in Mountain View, California. The company has also installed a high-speed fiber optic network around Stanford University, and is rolling out a citywide fiber network across Kansas City. So Google has some experience with building municipal and public networks.

But the Mountain View network makes perfect sense for a company with headquarters and thousands of employees in that city. Likewise, Google has deep roots in Stanford, where co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page once invented the company's core search technology. But why, oh why, did Google pick the artsy and residential Chelsea borough for its first Wi-Fi outing in the Big Apple?

Let me assure you that the choice had nothing to do with plentiful art galleries or cultural history. This is actually a lot like the Mountain View project -- Google mostly handed out free Wi-Fi to a few thousand of its own employees. Have a gander at this map:


Source: Google Maps and press releases.

The blue area shows the boundaries of Google's Wi-Fi installation. The red blob in the middle? Why, that's an 18-story office building that Google bought for $1.9 billion two years ago. The property serves as Google's central New York office -- a hub for some 2,750 employees in the city. The building has more office space than the Empire State Building and sits right on top of a crucial interconnection point for high-speed data cables that branch out across the Eastern Seaboard.

So there's direct access to a superior data feed, plenty of in-house utility to reap from the presence of a wireless network, and plenty of real estate value to protect. Looks like a pretty obvious choice now, doesn't it?

That being said, this installation fits right into the Google Fiber project, not to mention Google's general desire to increase Internet access for everyone. Every new eyeball is another potential ad clicker, after all. High-speed networking everywhere is Google's chosen vehicle for future growth, and Big G's primary weapon in the never-ending skirmishes with Apple  (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) and Microsoft  (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) . Try as they might, Redmond and Cupertino just don't know how to exploit Internet users like Google does.

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