An executive for Google Inc. says San Francisco's plan to offer free wireless Internet access to residents is being delayed by a slow-moving city bureaucracy five months after the company won a high-profile contract for the project alongside partner EarthLink Inc.
In an interview with The Chronicle, Chris Sacca, who leads Google's special projects, voiced frustration with what he called the city's slow negotiating style. Sacca said that talks to come up with a final contract have advanced little since they started and that officials have made unreasonable demands, including a request for free computers and a share in revenues.
"Every meeting is like the first," he said.
Sacca's criticisms are the first by Google about the city's oversight. Initially, officials said the wireless Internet network would be built by the end of the year, but the city now says the service will be delayed at least until 2007.
Ron Vinson, chief administrator for San Francisco's technology department, declined to address Google's complaints other than to say that "the city is pleased where the negotiations are heading, and we look forward to concluding this process."
Ultimately, Sacca said, the Wi-Fi network could be obsolete before it is built if the delays continue.
Sacca contrasted negotiations with San Francisco with similar talks in Mountain View, where Google recently introduced a free citywide Wi-Fi network. It took 2 1/2 months to approve a contract in Mountain View.
The contract in San Francisco is only the first hurdle. After that, the project will be reviewed by the Board of Supervisors and an undetermined number of city commissions.[MORE]