News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


PRESS RELEASE 08/07/3013
Subject :

City Provided Free Wi-Fi Goes Live in Cogswell Plaza on August 8
Contact : Claudia Keith, Chief Communications Officer    650-329-2607
Palo Alto, CA – It all started with an idea from a local entrepreneur whose philanthropic start up wanted to raise funds to beautify a City park. On August 8, the results of that initial idea will go live when officials "flip the switch" on free City-sponsored Wi-Fi that has been installed at Cogswell Plaza. The event is open to the public and scheduled for 6 p.m. 

"I am looking forward to seeing people sit in the park during the summer in the evenings and log on or have employees at nearby companies on their laptops at lunch using the free Wi-Fi," said Mayor Greg Scharff. “This directly aligns with one of the Council's 2013 priorities – Technology and the Connected City – and is another great example of Palo Alto working across many platforms to be a leading digital city,”said Mayor Greg Scharff.   

The launch was made possible when TopCorner – a start-up by then Stanford student Christopher Frank  that was dissolved when he left to take a job at Google – approached the city in March 2012 to run a crowdsourcing experiment to raise funds for a project to enhance a City park or community center. The goal was to find a project that was both feasible in the short-term but attractive to potential contributors. 

“Several things attracted me to the project proposed to us by Christopher Frank,” said Liz Hogan, president of the Friends of the Palo Alto Parks who contributed $2,000 to the project. “l liked the idea of building a platform to raise money for community improvements, as well as the opportunity for the city, local business, nonprofits and community members to work together to enhance a Palo Alto park. And what could be more natural than Wi-Fi in a park in downtown Palo Alto!"

At the same time, the City was in the midst of planning for the renovation of Cogswell Plaza and other park improvements as part of its overall Capital Improvement Project. It made sense to lay necessary fiber conduit under the park before the new turf was installed to provide the same type of free Wi-Fi internet access that is provided at City libraries, community centers and at City Hall. 

TopCorner successfully raised $9,291 from individual donors to cover part of the overall design installation and operating costs of the high speed Wi-Fi system for the first year of its trial application. Major contributors to the project included Lowenstein Sandler, LLP (Matt Kirmayer and Kathy Rawnsley), $4,300; Jive Software (Matt Tucker), $2,000; Friends of the Palo Alto Parks (Liz Hogan, President), $2,000, and the Palo Alto Downtown Business and Professional Association (Russ Cohen, Executive Director), $1,000. The remainder of the budgeted $20,000 to support the system's operation came from the City’s Information Technology, Utilities and Community Services departments.

“Our employees, and others in the area, will be able to come to the Plaza and log on to the free City Wi-Fi to work or relax,” said Matt Kirmayer of Lowenstein Sandler LLP,  a national law firm with its Silicon Valley office on Lytton Avenue, and also a significant contributor to the project. “This is a valuable city service that will enhance productivity and also allow our colleagues to stay connected while they and others enjoy this beautiful park."

When users log onto the service from their tablets or laptops, they will first see language that includes, “You are now connected to free, experimental high-speed Wi-Fi provided by the City of Palo Alto.  Feel free to surf the Web and use other Internet-enabled services from your connected device. While you are here, take some time to explore our website which provides a lot of content on the services and functions of our City.” 

The free Wi-Fi is a year-long experimental service that will be evaluated in terms of usage and community feedback as part of the Utilities citywide WiFi feasibility study.