I see Google is planning to offer free Wifi access to the residents of Mountain View (home of Google Headquarters) by entering an agreement with the city council to mount wireless access points on street lighting poles. They estimate 300-400 such devices will be enough to allow Internet access from anywhere outside a building. Access from inside a building will likely require a small external antenna.
This is an interesting idea, and it sounds as if Google plan to deploy the technology elsewhere if this initial project goes well. As they say themselves, Google can justify providing free access since it helps generate additional traffic for both Google and its advertising partners.
The city council proposal makes interesting reading, especially if you’re curious about the logistical details of such an arrangement (who pays for the power, what if the city changes its mind in two years, etc.)
One thing I haven’t seen mentioned yet is the impact of this proposed network on exising wireless networks in the area (e.g. within buildings). They all use the same 2.4 GHz unlicensed band. No doubt there are already newsgroups getting ready to meltdown with discussion of this…