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Mountain View Gets Free Access

As of this morning, residents in Mountain View, Calif., no longer need to pay for Internet access. After months of previews and testing, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) has launched a free wireless network in its hometown, covering almost all of the town's 12 square miles. (See Google's WiFi Mountain.)

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley and one of the most prosperous (and expensive) cities in America, Mountain View already has a lot going for it. Now, the city boasts the largest "non-commercial" -- i.e., non-advertising supported -- WiFi network in the United States.

St. Cloud, Fla., held that distinction until today, and there are other metro areas, including some in the Bay Area, which offer free access, with advertising, to residents and local businesses.

Like some other municipal WiFi networks, the Google system in Mountain View has run into some unexpected difficulties. The launch was delayed for a few months while extra access points were installed to fill in areas of light coverage.

The Mountain View network comprises 380 transceivers, from Tropos Networks Inc. of nearby Sunnyvale, mounted on light poles. Google says it spent around $1 million on the project, and will pay the city of Mountain View about $13,680 a year to lease space on the lampposts.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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