How many times have you had the need to consult something important on the Internet and have regretted that you have run out of mobile data? Imagine never having to complain about it again and always having an Internet connection. Perhaps this moment is not so far, since technological advances are allowing more and more European cities to install free Wi-Fi networks.
It seems that administrations have realized that the free Wi-Fi service available to all citizens is increasingly an indispensable public service . And not only for indigenous citizens, but also for travelers. Consulting localization applications or maps, the translator or others that recommend places or restaurants is necessary on many occasions, so it is clear that a trip is more efficient and comfortable if you have a good Internet connection. Furthermore, starting today, June 15, telephone companies officially eliminate the traditional roaming service , making this need even greater.
Faced with this new reality, a group of cities has taken the initiative and, although they are not fully connected, they have a multitude of free Internet access points. If you live in any of them, or if you plan to travel soon, you should know where you can connect.
Cities with free Wi-Fi
Tallinn was a pioneer in offering free Wi-Fi in Europe. Since more than 10 years you can find hotspots around the old town, beach, forest and other public places of interest. The browsing speed is good and there are almost no restrictions .
And not only Tallinn; Estonia in general is a very well connected 2.0 country . This is not surprising considering that two thirds of the population, including those over 65, pay their bills online, so it is not surprising that the Estonian government considers Internet access a right. Tallinn city center
London, United Kingdom
Since the 2012 Olympics , London has a multitude of free Wi-Fi connection points , with its network being one of the largest in the world. Both its citizens and tourists can enjoy 15 minutes of free Wi-Fi daily and all they have to do is download the application from The Cloud or O2 , the companies responsible for providing the service.
In addition, the British capital also has several low-cost connection points, so it is not difficult to access the Internet in case of emergency or need.
This Italian city has more than 370 free Internet access points , most of them in public buildings . Daily, users can browse at 300 Mbps , a speed that is reduced to 192 Mbps when the first ones are consumed.
In the country of pasta and pizza, an initiative called FreeItaliaWifi has been launched , which aims to provide free Wi-Fi service to the entire country, which, for the moment, have been joined by cities such as Rome, Venice and the Sardinia island.
The network of this Nordic city is one of the best in all of Europe, since the browsing speed is higher than that of most home networks , it is completely free and it is not even necessary to register in advance .
Other major Finnish cities like Oulu, Lahti and Turku as well as Finavia, the nation’s airline, also provide free internet connection service.
In Paris there are more than 400 Internet access points scattered throughout the city, especially in the most touristic points and also in museums, parks and libraries . The service, with a browsing speed of more than 250Kbps, is free for two hours as long as you have previously registered . At the end of this time, the user must re-register.
In France, other cities such as Bordeaux, Nantes, Toulouse, Marseille or Nice also have free internet connection.
Panoramic view of the city of Paris
The Wi-Fi network in the Austrian capital is very powerful , especially in the historic center of the city, the area called Donaukanal and also the Donauinsel area. With more than 400 connection points , the service is free, although registration is required to enjoy an hour on the Internet.
Groningen, The Netherlands
This Dutch city offers free Wi-Fi to all citizens and tourists without having to be near a connection point. The connection is two hours a day at a speed of 200 Mbps and coverage is only available in outdoor spaces.
In Amsterdam , the country’s capital, it’s difficult to find free hotspots beyond a few bars and libraries. For this reason, and also with the aim of reducing the high levels of pollution in the city, Janis Lam, a native Groningen, The Netherlands
designer, has launched an initiative with which birdhouses have been installed in the trees they serve, in turn such as free Wi-Fi hotspots . These are activated and offer connection when contamination levels drop and are minimally healthy.
Pforzheim, located in the south of the country, was the first city to offer free Internet connection in Germany. Later other cities such as the capital, Berlin, Düsseldorf or Hamburg have joined. The novelty of the Pforzheim network is that the user must register through a phone number, an email or a PayPal account and pay one euro to obtain a password . Once this is entered, you can navigate the entire city at a good speed .
Barcelona was the Spanish pioneer in joining the list of cities with free Wi-Fi. In Barcelona there are more than 400 free Internet access points , most of them located on bus lines and the most tourist places .
Other Spanish cities such as Madrid or Bilbao also have a free Wi-Fi network. The main disadvantage of all of them is that the browsing speed is usually slow and that you have to register every time the user wants to connect.
Juncker’s plan for the European Union
The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, confirmed last September 2016 one of the objectives that have been set within the Union’s plan to reform the entire telecommunications market: that all major cities in Europe have Free Wi-Fi from 2020.
In addition, this June 15 is the date established by the European Commission to end roaming , that roaming fee that until now we had to pay when we were traveling to some EU country. Its elimination does not suppose the disappearance of this canon, if not that it will be the companies that assume it. In this way, from now on you can continue using your mobile phone without changing anything and at no additional cost beyond what you already have established in your contract .
On the other hand, it wants to introduce the 5G network , whose coverage is expected to be total in the countries of the Union in 2025. And the goal is not only to offer free Wi-Fi connection, but also to make it available with 5G service . To do this, large cities must buy “high quality” devices that allow full coverage.
Finally, they also do not forget households , which in 2025 must also have Internet access with connections of at least 100 Mbps . In this way, Internet connection wants to be confirmed as a universal right and service.
Advantages, disadvantages and challenges
The existence of free and open Wi-Fi networks presents many points in favor, but also some against which we must take into account. As an advantage , the main one is improving the access of both inhabitants and tourists to the network and with it the promotion of the municipality . In addition, the business fabric of the city is improved , since citizens can always be connected. More efficient management of resources and connected and updated public transport are also strengths of this measure.
As a counterpoint, we cannot forget that the main problem presented by free Wi-Fi networks with free access is security . It is very easy to know who is connected in these networks and what they are doing and therefore the privacy is much less . In addition, it is much easier for network hackers to take over the information that we transmit and even the data that we have stored on our phone.
In this sense, it is important to keep in mind a series of basic safety recommendations . The most important is to avoid exchanging private information while we are connected to an unreliable network. For this it is important to have a firewall that does not allow incoming connections to our computer by other network users and to have the antivirus system updated. In addition, it is recommended to deactivate any type of synchronization with our device, not to log in with a username and password while we are connected to the public network, nor to carry out procedures such as online purchases or bank movements.
At the end of our connection to this type of network, it is convenient to review the list of memorized access points to eliminate those that are not reliable. Finally, it is important to remember that it is preferable to access a network with WPA or WPA2 security. Open and secure WEP networks are completely insecure.
Therefore, these types of connections still have many challenges ahead : they must improve their coverage to reach areas of difficult access and increase their browsing speed , which is currently very slow at present. Finally, the question regarding traffic restrictions must be resolved: which pages can we visit? Can we download files? How long will it take to download? All of them are questions that we will have to resolve over time and attend to the different improvements.