EU plans to introduce free WiFi in public places

Irish MEPs back the initiative, which will operate on a first-come, first-served basis...

EU plans to introduce free WiFi in public places

People use a public WiFi hotspot in Havana, Cuba. Picture by Desmond Boylan AP/Press Association Images

Your days of having to buy an overpriced coffee to get a decent bit of internet access when you're out-and-about could soon be over, as the European Parliament edges closer to granting free WiFi in public places across the continent.

Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada sits on the European Parliament's Budget Committee and is backing the initiative to give people greater access to the internet, stating that it was a welcome move at a time when Brexit is dominating European agendas. She said:

"It's great to have one good news story. Being a budget coordinator I've been given a file which I'm the chief negotitator on and it's about investing about €120m into free Wifi in public places."

The "WIFIEU" initiative to give free access in towns, villages, public buildings and parks is set to be rolled out this summer, pending approval. Unveiled late last year, the EU aims to provide WiFi to all villages and towns in the union by 2020.

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes has already called on the four local Dublin authorities to apply for the initiative.

The European Commission has stated:

"The WiFi4EU scheme will be open to entities with a public mission – typically local municipalities, libraries, health centres, etc. It will fund the equipment and installation costs (internet access points), while the local entity will pay for the connectivity (internet subscription) and maintenance in good order of the equipment.

"[It] will be delivered through simple and non-bureaucratic procedures such as online applications, payments by vouchers and light-touch monitoring requirements.

"As soon as the WiFi4EU scheme is approved by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers (expected in 2017), the first call for projects will be launched. The projects will be selected on a first-come, first-serve basis. Projects applying to the scheme should propose to equip areas where a public or a private Wi-Fi offering similar characteristics does not already exist."