Google to offer free Wi-Fi to area around NYC office

Steven Loeb · January 8, 2013 · Short URL:

Google's headquarters in Chelsea its second largest in the world

If there is one thing thaty everyone loves, its free Internet. I mean, seriously, why do you think people hang out at Starbucks, like, ALL DAY? I can guarantee you it isn't for the coffee. Also, in recent years, New York City has been trying to make the city more outdoors and pedestrian friendly, setting up pedestrian parks in Times Square and other areas. So what better way to get people outside again than to offer them free Internet?

Google, along the with the non-profit Chelsea Improvement Company, will be offering free Wi-Fi in the area around it's New York City office, the company announced Tuesday.

The free Wi-Fi will extend from Gansevoort Street to 19th Street, and from 8th Ave to the West Side Highway. It will also be available in the neighborhood’s public spaces, including the Chelsea Triangle, 14th Street Park, and Gansevoort Plaza. The network will also be extended indoors, to the Fulton Senior Center, on 9th Avenue. The Chelsea WiFi Network was designed and installed by Sky-Packets.

Speaking at a press conference in Manhattan Tuesday, Ben Fried, Google's Chief Information Officer, said that the company had worked closely with New York City's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications on the installation.

Google's New York City headquarters, he said, is home to 3,000 employees, and is Google's second largest office in the world, growing by 15% in 2012. 

Also attending the conference were New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Senator Chuck Shumer.

Speaking at the news conference, Schumer said the program will help New York stay as a leader in the tech industry in the coming years and generations.

“We all know New York’s next job engine is the tech industry,” Schumer said at the event. "One of the great things that's happened in New York is that talented people from around the world now come here, because of so many high tech companies. Growing and burgeoning companies like Google, which keeps growing its job numbers here every month. And new startups as well. And so this is the future of New York.”

He expressed hope that, eventually, the entire city would have access to free Wi-Fi.

Bloomberg said that, along with providing Chelsea with Internet access, Google is also providing a temporary home to Cornell-NYC Tech, the city's first major Applied Science campus, which will also help New York City compete to be the number one tech city in the world. 

“Our administration is working hard to make New York the world’s leading digital city,” Bloomberg said at the news conference. “Bringing Wi-Fi to public places is a great idea... now free Wi-Fi across all Southwest Chelsea takes us another step forward in groundbreaking fashion."

New York City already supplies free Wi-Fi to 20 different parks across the give buroughs, including sections of Central Park. In July, the city announced that it would be turning 10 of the few remaining payphones across the city into Wi-Fi kiosks, including one in Astoria, Queens, one in the Theater District, one in SoHo and one on the Upper West Side.

A Google spokesperson tells VatorNews that the company has no current plans to expand to other neighborhoods. 

New York vs. Silicon Valley

For all the talk from Schumer and Bloomberg about New York becoming the number one tech center in the world, the possibility seems unlikely considering how far and ahead Silicon Valley is at this point.

I wrote an article about the differences between the two cities in November, based on a report conducted by research firm Startup Genome, called the Startup Ecosystem Report 2012. It ranked the top 20 startup ecosystems, and New York came in fifth place, behind Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, Los Angeles and Seattle.

The report found that the average age of an entrepreneur in New York is slightly younger than their Silicon Valley counterparts (32.55 to 34.12) and more educated. For every one college dropout, New York has four entrepreneurs with a Masters and a PhD. Silicon Valley's ratio is 1 to 2.5.

On the other hand, New York entrepreneurs do not work harder, with an average of 9.69 hours a day, compared to 9.95 hours for Silicon Valley. 

The two ecosystems are equal when it comes to percentage of serial entrepreneurs, with 56%. 

One area where New York clearly wins: the percentage of female entrepreneurs. 18% of New York entrepreneurs are women, compared to only 10% in the Valley. In fact, New York is the global capital for women tech entrepreneurs, with the highest percentage of any city. 

When it comes to New York startups, they tend to monetize earlier, and have a higher ratio of paying customers. This helps mitigate risk, "it may also limit the startup’s ability to be highly disruptive," Startup Genome says.

The number of people employed per stage is equal, until the efficiency stage, where New York startups have double the number employees as Silicon Valley.

Despite ranking high for funding index, New York has a funding gap. It has 70% less funding than Silicon Valley in the second stage before product market fit. Startup Genome attributes this to a lack of super angels.

New York startups also have a smaller target market size and are 58% less likely to be over $10 Billion as compared to Silicon Valley startups.

Ultimately, Silicon Valley beat New York as the top tech city in the country. Unfortunately for New York, while it might be getting to a place where startups consider it to be a credible place to start their tech businesses, Silicon Valley still has the clear edge over all contenders.

"New York has established itself as a serious alternative to SV for startups in the consumer space and those focusing on e-commerce, advertising, media and fashion. However, it has long way to go to truly catch up with SV, with about the half number of startups as SV," the report concluded.

You can see the video of the press conference here.

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