A few months ago, we touched upon the concept of Wifi4EU. The main objective of this service is to provide free access to WiFi hotspots across all of Europe. Although it was initially unclear whether or not this plan would get off the ground in the first place, the final go-ahead has now been provided by the European Council. As is always the case when governments give something away for free, there will be some caveats regarding this initiative.
Wifi4EU Will go Ahead After all
It is commendable that the European Council aims to provide free WiFi hotspot access to residents of the EU. While it is true there is no lack of high-speed internet and mobile data connectivity within the European Union, WiFi access will always be appreciated by a lot of people. The European Union will sponsor free wireless internet access points in public places as part of the WiFi4EU project. Locations include libraries, parks, town halls, and so on.
Our society is more reliant on Internet connectivity now than ever before; that much no one can deny. Not everyone wants to use mobile data for a Facebook chat session while they’re out and about. Although some people will argue the Internet and smart devices have made the human race far more social than ever before, there are plenty of reasons why internet access in public places can be a good thing. Not everyone will take their gaming console to a park and start playing online games using the free WiFi access point.
The primary objective will be to use a multilingual, free WiFi access point approach. Initially, this service will be provided to around 6,000 communities across the EU. The first stage of the project will roll out between now and 2020, with more locations being added as time progresses. This is a major development for a lot of communities where Internet connections may be restricted or simply too expensive for the time being. It is unclear if WiFi4EU will roll out to other regions after that.
Estonia’s Minister for Entrepreneurship and IT Urve Palo stated:
“The WiFi4EU scheme will make high-quality internet more accessible for many citizens and gives local municipalities, libraries and other public bodies the opportunity to promote their digital services. It could even trigger a virtuous investment cycle.”
Under the plan, municipalities and hospitals will be able to apply for funding to install WiFi access points – as long as there is no existing private or public internet connection duplicated by the new hotspot. It is evident WiFi4EU is designed to bring access to places where connectivity is virtually nonexistent. Although a lot of public places already provide WiFi access these days, there are still thousands of other places where that is not the case. Getting those areas online is a pretty significant step in the right direction.
Depending on how things go, the Wifi4EU funding ceiling may be as high as 120 million euro. That is a substantial amount, but bringing high-speed internet access to more public places is absolutely invaluable these days. The funding will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, although the European Council will take geographical balance into account too. A bright future lies ahead for wireless internet in Europe; that much is certain.