Google Just Bought $400 Million Worth of Public Wi-Fi Hotspots (Updated: Not Really)S

Never content to be just the go-to search engine, Google's been barking up some interesting trees recently. Now, Google has gobbled up ICOA for $400 million, and the thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots that come with it.

Hotspot provider ICOA is no small fry; it owns Wi-Fi networks across 40 states and is partnered with names like iPass, Boingo Wireless and BroadSky Networks. ICOA specializes in high-traffic areas like airports and restaurants, so this acquisition is going to give Google a pretty wide network of Wi-Fi hotspots without any of the trouble of building one.

So why drop a cool $400 mil on Wi-Fi hot-spots? There could be any number of secret Googly-reasons, but it's probably for data. Much like Google's new ARG is a great way to collect footpath data from mobile gamers, having access to mobile hotspots will give Google access to the kind of data it needs to help develop and sell mobile ads. And if it turns out that Google really is buddying up with Dish for a potential wireless service, it could have even more data coming its way. Google's certainly building up a little war chest of network here, and it's most definitely going to be using it to make some money off you, but it's not like you'll notice the difference. [PR Web via ZDNet]

Update: Looks like someone may have been a little quick to the draw on this one. AllThingsD is saying Google sources are denying claims of an acquisition. We've reached out to Google PR for comment.

Update 2: Our sources have confirmed that Google has not acquired ICOA for any amount of money. At least not yet.

Update 3: ICOA is now on record calling claims of acquisition false as well. CEO George Strouthopoulos told the Wall Street Journal that ICOA "never had any discussions with any potential acquirers," and is going to report the false release to the proper authorities.

Update 3: PRWeb has weighed in a with a statement of its own:

PRWeb transmitted a press release for ICOA that we have since learned was fraudulent. The release was not issued or authorized by ICOA. Vocus reviews all press releases and follows an internal process designed to maintain the integrity of the releases we send out every day. Even with reasonable safeguards identity theft occurs, on occasion, across all of the major wire services. We have removed the fraudulent release and turned the matter over to the proper authorities for further investigation.

Image by dencg/Shutterstock