New signage along the Pearl Street Mall highlights the expanded public Wi-Fi that a Google grant has made possible downtown. Courtesy Downtown Boulder Foundation

Google grant expands public Wi-Fi in downtown Boulder

BOULDER — Public Wi-Fi along Pearl Street in downtown Boulder is about to get a lot stronger, thanks to a $216,000 grant from Google Inc.

The Downtown Boulder Foundation announced the grant July 23, noting that it will allow for “a major expansion and stronger coverage of the free Pearl Street WiFi network,” according to a press release.

Google’s contribution paid for new equipment along the Pearl Street Mall, with additional coverage added from the East to the West End districts. The prior Wi-Fi service, provided by the Downtown Boulder Business Improvement District, covered the four-block pedestrian mall only.

The expanded free, public access Wi-Fi (on the #Pearl network) will now reach from

Eighth to 20th streets. The initiative, also in conjunction with Sky Packets, deploys next-generation outdoor access point technology offering Internet connectivity outdoors along Pearl Street. The network will be the first high-density, 802.11AC network deployed in Boulder.

In partnership with several property owners, the equipment has been placed on rooftops to provide guests visiting downtown the ability to be online while outside at greater speeds and with stronger coverage. The network can handle 7,500 simultaneous connections with wireless communications with speeds of up to 1 Gigabits per second, compared with a capacity of up to 1,500 simultaneous connections with speeds of up to 700 Megabits per second under the previous system.

“The partnership between Google, Downtown Boulder and Sky Packets is a great example of the role that organizations can play in connecting people,” Sean Maher, Downtown Boulder Foundation’s CEO, said in a prepared statement. “We are excited to partner with Google in the community to be able to expand and enhance free WiFi across downtown and ensure that next generation connectivity is accessible to everyone visiting the U.S.”

Henry Quintin, CEO of Sky Packets, added, “The upgraded network and expanded coverage area will no doubt benefit all who work, play and visit downtown Boulder for many years to come. We are excited to partner with Google and Downtown Boulder Foundation to offer a first-of-its-kind next generation WiFi network to the local community.”

Google has operated in Boulder since 2006 and recently opened two 100,000-square-foot buildings at 2930 Pearl St., with a third under construction.

“We’re honored to partner with the Downtown Boulder Foundation and Sky Packets to expand the Pearl Street WiFi project,” said Google Boulder site lead Scott Green. “This will help support our community’s small businesses and keep Boulder residents connected across town or around the world. We hope that this new network will serve the community for many years to come.”