Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Living In The Shadow Of The Googleplex: Neglect Leads Mountain View To Switch Off Google WiFi

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 7, 2013

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In 2006 Google set up a free WiFi network in Mountain View, where it is headquartered. But constant problems with connectivity have forced the local government to decide to pay for a reliable WiFi connection for its City Hall, library, and other buildings.

Daniel DeBolt reporting for The Mountain View Voice: City Hall to switch off Google WiFi

Users say the WiFi network hasn't been fully functional for months.

"We started to get a lot of complaints," said Steve Rodriguez, the city's IT manager. "We generally get them in the library. From what I can tell it's pretty much not working anymore. We get asked a lot, 'What is going on with the Google wireless?'" Rodriguez's response? "I don't know."

Some of the commenters to the story said the network has had problems for several years" 

Let's be perfectly clear here: Google WiFi connectivity at the library has been spotty *FOR YEARS*, not just a few months.

I note that I can stand directly under a WiFi node mounted on a city streetlight and not be able to connect. Even if the connection speed is slow, it would be a more useful network if it had some modicum of reliability. It did, once upon a time, but those days are long gone.

Google is installing high speed Internet networks in Provo, Utah (close to NSA facility); Kansas City, Missouri; and Austin, TX.

Searching for more cubicles...

In other local Googleplex news: Google's neighbors are concerned about its plans to occupy a large building in Mountain View for 2,500 workers. Google employs about 20,000 workers in Mountain View but only about 2,000 live in the city. Daniel DeBolt reporting for The Mountain View Voice: Google expansion brings mixed feelings.

...said council member Mike Kasperzak. The impacts of Google's growth have become obvious, he said: Shoreline Boulevard is more gridlocked than ever, there's been an unprecedented spike in rents and restaurants are struggling as a bigger percentage of workers eat free gourmet lunches on campus. 

Google is looking for space for an additional 10,000 to 15,000 workers and is considering sites in adjoining Palo Alto and Sunnyvale.

Missing Sales Tax...

Local resident Patrick Moore published an opinion piece in The Mountain View Voice pointing out the fact that Google pays no sales tax unlike prior businesses that occupied its HQ campus (Silicon Graphics), and other buildings:

Mountain View must realize that Google's prestige is not paying the bills. Google does not generate the tax revenue Mountain View needs to pay for basic city services.

For cities, sales tax revenue is the main commercial real estate benefit, both from corporate sales and employee purchases made during the day. Google's billions in corporate service sales are not subject to sales tax, so Google billions in corporate sales do nothing for Mountain View.

Costco, San Antonio Center, Shoreline Amphitheatre and the other Mountain View businesses generate more sales tax revenue. Before 2003, SGI occupied the North Bayshore buildings. SGI's computer sales generated millions in revenue. Mountain View invested that revenue in $20 million for the light rail extension, a renovated downtown, Stevens Creek Trail and other community amenities. SGI employees patronized local businesses, generating more sales tax revenue and increasing employment opportunities for non-technical residents.

In 2003, Google moved in. Google's free food, onsite-everything (oil changes to chiropractic care), and bused-in employees is an excellent way to keep employees and their money sealed in the Googleplex bubble.

... Mountain View can no longer afford the lost sales tax revenue. We need businesses that generate direct economic benefit -- not unbankable "prestige."

Google may try to "Do no evil," but Google is not doing Mountain View any good.

Breathing out...

Earlier this year toxic carcinogenic fumes were detected in a Google building. They are a reminder of the area's chip-making heritage and leaky tanks that contaminated many sites around Silicon Valley, creating the largest number of Superfund sites in the country. Superfund sites are highly toxic and require many years of clean-up.

Over 1,000 Googlers moved into "the Quad" near Whisman Road and Middlefield Road in June of 2012, an area once home to Fairchild and Intel, among others. Those companies used TCE (trichloroethylene) as a solvent in the manufacturing of the first silicon computer chips, leaving behind a massive plume of contaminated groundwater discovered in 1981 -- one that may take many more decades to clean up.

Though regularly tested since 2003, in December Google's new buildings at 369 and 379 Whisman Road were found for the first time to have TCE vapors above the Environmental Protection Agency's indoor screening level, said Alana Lee, project manager for the EPA. The results were blamed on building modifications made for Google that created a pathways through the floor for the vapors to seep into parts of the buildings.

In a recent round of indoor air tests of office buildings above the MEW plume (so named because it is roughly bordered by Middlefield, Ellis and Whisman roads), two office buildings were found to have TCE vapor levels over the limit despite ventilation systems operating: a vacant building at 630 National Drive and 480 Ellis Street -- occupied by surgical equipment maker Aesculap and consultant firm Bristlecone. The latter is undergoing changes to its ventilation system to address the problem.

A Google spokesperson called the levels "anomalous" in its buildings and the causes were "promptly identified and fixed. The health of our Googlers was not put at risk in any way at any time."

However, Google is expecting the original polluters to clean up the site. Meanwhile, its workers are being protected only by activated charcoal filters in the building's ventilation system.

 

 

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