Internet search engine company Google said it has made a proposal to provide free wireless Internet access via a wireless mesh network throughout the city of San Francisco, according to numerous media reports.

Google made the offer in response to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's request for information on methods to establish an affordable wireless network throughout the city. Other bidders for the San Francisco project include ISP EarthLink, which was chosen to develop a Wi-Fi network throughout the city of Philadelphia.

Wireless Philadelphia, a nonprofit group named by Philadelphia's mayor to spearhead the project, chose EarthLink over a team led by Hewlett-Packard, according to media reports. A contract is expected to be signed during the next two months that details the terms by which EarthLink will finance, build and manage the wireless network.

In related news, a recent report suggested that municipalities should not compete against the private sector in the broadband market but that government entities can play an important role to ensure that high-speed data services are available to their constituents.

Entitled “Municipal Broadband: Digging Beneath the Surface,” the report, written by former Legg Mason telecom analyst Michael Balhoff and longtime state regulator Robert Rowe, examines the controversial topic of governments offering high-speed access.

The report stated that governments should not enter the high-speed access market in competition against private enterprises, citing financial risks and potential anti-competitive ramifications. Where commercial providers are unwilling to enter a market, governments may be the best broadband option. But, even in these situations, elected officials should proceed with extreme caution, according to the report.