Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City Councilor Lin Shih-tsung (林世宗) yesterday criticized the city government for granting a three-year contract for its free public wireless service to Wi-Fi service provider Qware Communications.
Lin also accused the city government of helping the firm monopolize the Wi-Fi service market in Taipei, urging the city to improve the quality of the service.
The free wireless service, called “Taipei Free,” was launched last year as the city aimed to expand the scope of its public wireless service. The city government signed a one-year contract with service provider G1 Corp, but awarded Qware Communications a three-year contract worth NT$357 million (US$ 11 million) in March.
Qware Communications has provided the city’s paid wireless service — WiFly — since 2004, and the company has been using WiFly hotspots for the Taipei Free service to save money and make bigger profits, Lin said.
“The contract required the service provider to set up more than 4,500 hotspots, but the company is using old equipment for the Taipei Free project. It’s a monopoly with windfall profits, and Taipei residents are the biggest losers, left with poor-quality wireless service,” he said.
Lin said the WiFly service was poorly operated, and the city government only received about NT$5.7 million in royalties from the company. However, the city government continued to sign contracts with Qware Communications and allowed it to use old equipment for the new project, he said.
Chang Yu-hui (張郁慧), chief secretary at Taipei City’s Department of Information Technology, said the department allowed the contractor to use existing hotspots for the Taipei Free project as it wanted to provide the free wireless service immediately. New hotspots would take at least two years to set up, Chang said.
She acknowledged the quality of Taipei Free remained unstable and said the department would not pay the contract fee to the company until it improved the service.
“There are no problems with the existing hotspots. The wireless service is unstable because the number of wireless users increased sharply because the service is free. We’ve asked the company to set up more hotspots and improve the quality of service,” she said.
The department has fined the company NT$10 million for failing to provide a stable wireless service, and the department will continue to inspect the quality of hotspots until the end of this month.
The Taipei Free service is available for both Taiwanese and foreign visitors. Taiwanese can register for a free account using their mobile phone number, while foreign visitors can use their passport number to apply for the service at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) and visitor information centers throughout the city.
The paid WiFly service costs NT$100 for 24 hours of access, NT$500 for unlimited use within 31 days and NT$300 for 400 minutes within a period of 90 days.