Google is another step closer to becoming a WiFi wireless LAN service provider in San Francisco.

The Department of Telecommunications and Information Services (DTIS) has chosen a plan by Google and internet service provider Earthlink to provide a free citywide WiFi network. A spokesman in the city's communications department confirmed the deal. However, it is subject to contractual negotiations which have now begun.

San Francisco's plan to provide WiFi to its residents has been the target of much media attention, particularly because search giant Google has lobbied hard and publicly for the contract. The company even provided free WiFi access in its home city of Mountain View, California, as a testing ground for the proposed San Francisco project.

Google and Earthlink's plan has been seen as the front-runner in the race as San Francisco officials reviewed proposals to provide a WiFi service to the city's residents.

Google and Earthlink have said they will pay the cost of the network and will be responsible for building it.

According to their plan, the companies will offer two wireless internet services – a free, ad-supported service from Google, and Earthlink's fee-based service that allows users to surf the internet at speeds faster than Google's service.

Like other US cities considering WiFi plans, San Francisco is pushing wireless in the hopes of generating economic activity, bridging the "digital divide" between those who can and can't afford traditional broadband, and improving city government and public safety communications.