EU Proposes Free Public Wi-Fi for Member Countries by 2020

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Ubiquitous free public Wi-Fi might seem like a pipe dream for Americans, but for many European countries it could become a reality in as little as four years. The London Evening Standard reports that European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has proposed to provide Wi-Fi connections in public spaces for all EU member states by 2020. He announced the plan during his State of the Union speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday, September 14.

“Digital technologies and digital communications are permeating every aspect of life,” Juncker said in his talk, as quoted by the Evening Standard. “All they require is access to high-speed internet. We need to be connected. Our economy needs it. People need it.”

According to the BBC, the EU wants to provide Europe’s parks, squares, libraries, and public buildings with Wi-Fi by 2020, and for at least one city in each member country to have a 5G mobile network. By 2025, the union wants all households, major railroads and railways, and public services and administrations to be equipped with internet connections of varying speeds. (The jury's still out on whether the EU’s wireless goals apply to England, as they exited the union before 2020.)

Some people doubt the plan’s viability, and argue that European officials still haven’t made good on other tech-related promises, like getting rid of mobile roaming fees. Others have read the plan’s fine print, and point out that while the EU will take care of installation fees and equipment costs, local organizations will have to foot Wi-Fi subscription and maintenance bills. Meanwhile, additional critics say that 5G technology is still a work in progress, and that many of Europe’s public spaces already have Wi-Fi.

[h/t London Evening Standard]

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