Free wifi for all? Cities (and nations) make universal digital access a right

For years, some large cities have wooed tourists and telecommuters by offering free WiFi hotspots to help find the best restaurants or connect for meetings from a park bench. This month, Mexico City won the Guinness world record for most free WiFi hotspots in the world, with 21,500.

But city lawmakers in Mexico’s ruling party want to take another important step, to make internet access a legal right for everyone in the city, the El Heraldo of Mexico reported daily. Temístocles Villanueva, member of the municipal parliament of the Morena party, led by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, proposed a motion for universal digital access to be enshrined in the Mexico City charter.

Mexico’s total ambitions

While about nine out of ten people in Europe and the United States are able to connect to the Internet, less than half of the Mexican population has access to it, with the digital divide made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Villanueva said El Heraldo that his initiative “lead us to harmonize a large number of laws so that the Internet connection becomes a right” regardless of your ability or your willingness to pay for a connection. This, he said, would also force businesses to “improve” the quality and speed of their home services, if Wi-Fi were free outside.

This is just the latest municipal effort that began when Tel Aviv became the first major city in the world to launch a program offering free WiFi. back in 2013. Ron Huldai, who has served as the city’s mayor since 1998, said at the time that the project transformed Tel Aviv into “the startup city of the startup nation.”

Yet the reviews came quickly, with Haaretz will soon post a story about uneven access, missing access points, and slow downloads. Further criticism came regarding the security of the system after a a hacker took over the network in 2016 to show he could.

Attract digital nomads

But despite the complaints, free WiFi is becoming more and more common in large cities. Moscow has an extensive network of free hotspots (it came second in the Guinness World Record), as does Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Barcelona. Last year, Sydney City Council decided to go ahead with the decision to also set up free WiFi, which is already working in Perth, with a limit of 2G downloads per day.

Several other destinations have implemented free internet access for foreigners who work remotely. For example, the Portuguese island of Madeira is trying to position itself as a hotspot for digital nomads and has created a Digital nomadic village with free WiFi and free office space. The Bali island in Indonesia has also recently set up free Wi-Fi in 55 villages to allow digital nomads to set up their businesses there.

the citizenship Uber or Airbnb,

There are also entire countries that are combining nationwide free Wi-Fi with electronic visas or flexible immigration policies to attract digital nomads. Estonia, for example, has had free Wi-Fi for many years, including in the capital Tallinn, and recently launched a digital nomad visa attract foreign workers who wish to settle in the country.

If we consider free WiFi as an advantage for tourists and digital nomads, some technicians are trying to upset the whole concept: authors like Lauren Razavi advocate for the creation of what they call “an Internet country”. The idea is to create a software platform for digital nomads, “the Uber or Airbnb of citizenship”, but would still need field services like hospitals, schools, public transport and … hotspots Wireless. So even in a digital nomad’s futuristic dream, free hotspots are the first step to take.

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