Hoping to offer free high-speed Internet access across Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa introduced a plan Tuesday to create what would be the nation’s single-largest citywide wireless network. Villaraigosa’s plan calls for the city to hire a technology expert to work with the private sector to develop a massive Wi-Fi network that would allow people with wireless-equipped laptops and other devices to surf the Web without having to plug into a phone line. The service would be free throughout the city, although users who want a faster connection could pay for speedier service. “By giving every resident high-speed access, we will transform Los Angeles into a cutting-edge city across every neighborhood and every economic sector,” Villaraigosa said. Wi-Fi, short for wireless fidelity, sends data over radio waves through a network of transmitters. Communities across the country have rushed to try to build such networks. Even as Villaraigosa was announcing his effort, Houston officials disclosed a deal with EarthLink to build a citywide wireless Internet network that would eclipse L.A.’s. More than 200 communities across the country have undertaken some form of wireless access for residents. Still, many efforts remain limited to isolated and experimental areas. Some plans, as in San Francisco, have run into contract disputes. kerry.cavanaugh@ dailynews.com (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!