Free Wi-Fi for all? Cities (and nations) make universal digital access a right

For years, some big 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 the most free Wi-Fi 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 in 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, as the digital divide has been worsened 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 WiFi 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 Wi-Fi 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 hacker took over the network in 2016 to show he could.

Attract digital nomads

But despite complaints, free WiFi is becoming more and more common in major 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 implement free WiFi, which already works 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 nomad village with free WiFi and free office space. The island of Bali in Indonesia has also recently set up free WiFi 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 WiFi for many years, including in the capital Tallinn, and recently launched a digital nomad visa to attract foreign workers who want to settle in the country.

Looking at free Wi-Fi as a boon for tourists and digital nomads, some techies are trying to turn the whole concept upside down: authors like Lauren Razavi advocate for the creation of what they call “a country.” Internet “. The idea is to create a software platform for digital nomads, “the Uber or Airbnb of citizenship”, but would still need field services such as hospitals, schools, public transport and… WiFi hotspots. So even in a digital nomad’s futuristic dream, free hotspots are the first step to take.

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