Sat, Mar 21, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Taipei to focus efforts on improving Wi-Fi hotspots

ITAIWAN:The city has formed an alliance with private businesses to integrate their services into a national free Wi-Fi, while it invests more on hotspot services

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

The Taipei City Government yesterday announced plans to improve the service on its Taipei Free Wi-Fi network.

“Because expanding the Taipei Free Wi-Fi network for the whole city is too expensive for the Taipei City Government alone, we should bring in the private sector,” Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said.

Criticizing the current service as being hard to connect to and use, despite the city’s significant infrastructure investments, Ko said that cooperating with the private sector would enable the city to focus on future investment and provide a better service.

At a ceremony at Taipei City Hall, the city government signed an agreement with 11 businesses that provide free Wi-Fi services to create the Taipei Wireless Internet Alliance.

The plan is for the group to integrate their services with Taipei Free Wi-Fi, which is to be integrated into a national free Wi-Fi service iTaiwan. The signatories include 7-Eleven, FamilyMart and the Eslite bookstore chain.

Taipei Department of Information Technology Commissioner Lee Wei-bin (李維斌) said that, after integration, the city would focus on friendly and convenient Wi-Fi hotspot services, rather than continuing to attempt to carpet the city with Wi-Fi access.

“There is no way for public or private investment to provide free Wi-Fi everywhere,” he said. “If you plan to use the Internet everywhere, you would be better off looking at 4G services.”

With residents’ reliance on Internet access already a de facto basic necessity, businesses have an incentive to provide access in order to attract clients, Lee said.

The city should focus its efforts on providing access only in important areas where there is no incentive for businesses to provide free service, such as libraries and bus stations, he said, adding that the partnership with private firms was a way to focus resources where they are truly needed.

When asked about the city’s goals for the reformed service, he said the city would no longer measure the system’s success in terms of the number of users.

Rather, the city would seek to provide reliable Wi-Fi hotspot access at speeds sufficient to check e-mail and conduct Internet searches, he said.

He added that technical obstacles make it practically impossible to provide a reliable Wi-Fi service at all times in areas of heavy usage, such as MRT stations.

However, before the reformed service can be rolled out, the city still needs to hold talks with the alliance on basic standards for the service, including guaranteeing information privacy and providing customer service, Lee said.

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