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Google, EarthLink Join Forces In San Fran Wi-Fi Bid

Google and EarthLink have joined forces in a bid to provide San Francisco with wireless Web access. They would offer basic access for free and charge $20 per month for high-speed. The two companies had been bidding against each other, but made the decision Tuesday night to work together. Under the partnership, EarthLink would cover most of the projected $15 million cost to build and maintain San Francisco's Wi-Fi network for 10 years, the company's president of municipal networks said. He added that the company would recover some of its expenses by charging $20 per month for high-speed access 20 times faster than dial-up. Google's free Wi-Fi alternative will be five to six times faster than dial-up. In Philadelphia, where EarthLink is building another Wi-Fi network on a 10-year contract, the company is selling its service wholesale to Internet service providers for $9 per user per month. San Francisco will pick a winning bid in April. Google and EarthLink are competing against five other finalists: Communication Bridge Global; NextWLAN; Razortooth Communications LLP; MetroFi; and SF Metro Connect, a partnership that includes SeaKay, Cisco Systems Inc. and IBM Corp. If the joint venture wins, San Francisco will become the first major city to offer a free Wi-Fi Internet service.

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