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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Google Inc. attempted to break into yet another sector of the Internet business with a recent bid to provide free wireless Internet access to San Francisco.
The Internet search engine, which launched a free e-mail service and map program around the time its shares soared following an initial public offering last year, was among several companies that submitted proposals to the city, Google spokesman Nathan Tyler said Monday in an e-mail.
Google (Research) proposes placing 20 or 30 connection boxes per square mile on city lampposts. The boxes, similar to regular WiFi boxes, would give users high-speed Internet access without the need for a physical connection or a monthly Internet bill.
The boxes would then all connect to a few fixed-line locations throughout the city, such as existing cable, phone or fiber-optic lines operated by local or long distance phone or cable companies.
Tyler said Google has plans to partner with a cable or phone company for the project, but he declined to name which one. He also declined to say how much the project would cost. But the Wall Street Journal Online, which first reported the story, said costs could run anywhere from $10 million to $20 million.
The Journal also said the service could end up in direct competition with cable or phone companies, which provide most of the current hookups, but Tyler said Google has no plans to expand the service outside the San Francisco area.
While the service would be free, Tyler said it offers the company a chance to test "new location-based applications and services that enable people to find relevant information exactly when and where they need it."
Some of those applications might include a service that uses Google maps to provide directions according to a user's location, or they could provide local advertising that targets customers in the immediate vicinity of the business, according to the Journal.
Reuters reported that San Francisco has received 24 proposals to provide WiFi in the city, including bids from Cingular and EarthLink (Research).
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