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Google offers free wireless Internet in hometown

Google Inc., owner of the most-used search engine, began offering free wireless Internet connections yesterday to residents in the company's hometown of Mountain View, Calif., as part of an effort to boost Internet use.

Christopher Sacca, head of special initiatives at Google, said the network covers 11.5 square miles and has 380 access points in the city with a population of about 72,000, 35 miles south of San Francisco. The service won't be supported by online ads, he said.

Google spent about $1 million building the network to investigate how consumers use wireless connections and to encourage the growth of similar projects in other cities, Sacca said. The company is working with EarthLink Inc. to provide free wireless access in San Francisco but won't seek to build networks in other cities, he said.

``If more people have access to the Internet and more people are doing searches, then we make out," Sacca said.

Google engineers attached antennas to lamp posts in Mountain View, which approved the project in November. headquarters.

Consumers need to sign up for a Google account to use the network that offers connections of about 1 megabit per second, more than 15 times the speed of most dial-up services.

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