Osaka, Japan has just released a new program that provides its citizens with free Wi-Fi anywhere in the city. Sorry Starbucks and McDonalds, you no longer hold the gateway to free internet access.
This has tons of benefits for a city including
- more educated people who have a constant access to information
- more interactive tourism opportunities if visitors have access to free internet
- increased gdp
- the ability to add next generation city appliances to a massive smart grid ( picture smart home but smart city)
In fact, 57 cities in the world now have free Wi-Fi for their citizens and more are being added to the list every day. Policy Mic states, “These cities hope “muni-Wi-Fi” will provide job opportunities to their underserved populations, facilitate waves of innovation, and brand the city as tech-friendly.”
Even Taiwan is getting in on the free Wi-Fi action by offering it to all tourists. I mean one country can only have so many tour guides to cover all of their many attractions and interesting history. Plus lets face it, any traveller who has their data plan on while navigating across an island is going to be paying more in roaming charges than what the trip cost originally.
This article from the Telegraph claims, “The government-backed iTaiwan scheme launched two years ago, and now has more than 4,000 hotspots dotted around the island, including the main tourist attractions, transport hubs and government buildings.”
In Canada, the Federal Government and even local politicians such as a councillor from Toronto have been calling for city-wide free Wi-Fi yet the concept hasn’t left the world of idealism quite yet.
The city which has been in the news most for its push for free Wi-Fi is Los Angeles, “Councilman Bob Blumenfield acknowledged the plan could carry a price tag of $60 million to $100 million for basic Wi-Fi services, with the Information and Technology Agency estimating a full buildout of the system could run $3 billion to $5 billion.”
Many of the critics of citywide free Wi-Fi claim that it isn’t needed and that if everyone already has a phone and internet access at home it isn’t needed. But picture the benefit for tourists, or for people who can’t afford a data plan but still want access to free communication and online job applications. Free Wi-Fi all over the city has tons of long term benefits and thinking that internet access is a want instead of a need in 2014 is a little naive. Sure you may not die if you are without internet but you certainly don’t have the same access to free education, information, job opportunities, and communication with people who can enhance your quality of life.