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Is Google Trying to Remake Wi-Fi?


New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks during a news conference on
Jan. 8, 2013 in New York. Google and The Chelsea Improvement Company say
they'll provide free public Wi-Fi in Manhattan's southwest Chelsea neighborhood

Photograph by Altaffer/AP Photo

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks during a news conference on Jan. 8, 2013 in New York. Google and The Chelsea Improvement Company say they'll provide free public Wi-Fi in Manhattan's southwest Chelsea neighborhood

The Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog is reporting that Google (GOOG) is exploring new wireless technologies, possibly to develop its own wireless networks around the country.

The search engine giant has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission, asking for a license to tinker with “an experimental radio service,” the blog post reports. Presumably this has more to do with wireless communication than with a radio station that specializes in the music of John Cage. The wireless standard Google is looking to play with is currently incompatible with Wi-Fi or 3G or 4G devices, so this is still little more than an experiment for now.

Google already provides broadband service to Kansas City (Mo.) residents, and has Wi-Fi networks in its hometown of Mountain View, Calif., and in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, where its New York office is located. The new service would perhaps be able to provide faster, more reliable connections than Wi-Fi.

This news dovetails quite nicely with an op-ed in today’s New York Times, which calls for greater competition in the wireless and broadband markets. “Both the wireless and wired markets for high-speed Internet access have become heavily concentrated, and neither is subject to substantial competition nor oversight,” the article asserts. Google may be welcomed—if not encouraged—to seek a greater role in a market typically dominated by cable and telephone companies.

Grobart is a senior writer for Bloomberg Businessweek and the managing editor of Bloomberg Digital Video. Follow him on Twitter @samgrobart.

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