Google and ICOA: The big deal that wasn't

Google was reported to be acquiring Wi-fi provider ICOA. But both ICOA and Google have loudly denied that there were ever any talks at all. 

Reuters
Coffee cups with Google logos are seen at the new Google office in Toronto in November.

Earlier today, word trickled out that Mountain View megalith Google would snap up ICOA, a Wi-Fi provider based in Warwick, R.I. The move was seen as an effort by Google to increase its network capability.

"As the amount of data traffic increases," one analyst wrote in Computerworld, "so has also the importance of Wi-Fi as a way to offload cellular networks."

The only problem: Google isn't actually interested in ICOA, and may not have entered talks with the company at all. In a feistily-worded message to TechCrunch this afternoon, ICOA CEO George Strouthopoulos called the rumors "NOT TRUE" (the caps are his). 

"Never had any discussions with any potential acquirers! This is absolutely false!" Strouthopoulos wrote. "Someone, I guess a stock promoter with a dubious interest, is disseminating wrong, false and misleading info in the PR circles."

Google has separately denied the rumors in an interview with Mashable

So what happened, exactly? Well, the whole mess can be traced to this press release, which was published on PRWeb.com, and which states that in acquiring ICOA, Google is looking to "further diversify it's already impressive portfolio of companies." 

PRWeb doesn't exactly have a lot of barriers to entry, or a particularly rigorous approval and verification process: Users simply sign up for a free account and post away. Reps for the site haven't yet explained how the erroneous ICOA/Google press release got up there, but it's not unreasonable to assume, as ICOA's Strouthopoulos argued, that the whole thing was an elaborate attempt to drive up stock prices. 

Updates when we have them. 

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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