Google, the online search leader, confirmed Tuesday it has begun a limited test of a free wireless Internet service, called Google WiFi.
The existence of the Wi-Fi service, which offers high-speed connections to the Internet over short distances, is confirmed by public pages on the company’s Web site and was first reported in a Silicon Valley newspaper in July.
Google spokesman Nate Tyler said the current test is limited to two public sites near the company’s Mountain View, California, headquarters -- a pizza parlor and a gym -- located in the heart of Silicon Valley.
“Google WiFi is a community outreach program to offer free wireless access in areas near our headquarters,” Tyler said.
“At this stage in development, we’re focused on collecting feedback from users. We’ll determine next steps as the product evolves,” he said.
Free wireless communications would take Google even further from its Internet search roots and move it into the fiercely competitive world of Internet access providers and telecommunications companies.
Tyler said the project was started as part of a Google engineer’s “20 percent time project.”
Google encourages its engineers to spend 20 percent of their work time developing independent projects. Several of Google’s new products have grown out of such projects, including Google News, contextual advertising program AdSense and social-networking test project Orkut.