A load of meatballs? Italians might get free wi-fi

Spaghetti_and_meatballs_(cropped)The Italian government has come up with a novel way of fixing its aging and creaking broadband – it is going to introduce free wi-fi for tourists.

Italy has a problem in that its fixed line system is run by Telecom Italia which is broke and can’t afford to make any changes. The Telco is pretty much a monopoly which does not sit well with regulators.  At the same time no one really wants to fix it because that would take time and money.  Meanwhile there are American tourists shouting in the middle of Roma that they can’t stream their movies to their loved ones back in the Land of the Free.

Italian MPs’ answer is to provide free Wi-Fi in thousands of public places where foreigners are likely to hang out.  People will still not get it in their homes, but if they nip down to the local square with their mobile they might get a connection, along with a loud bloke wearing a Hawaiian shirt who is telling everyone how old the buildings are.

Under the plan, large shops, taxis, airports, law courts and other public places would have to set up an Internet connection and offer no-password wireless access free.

The plan is being pushed by Sergio Boccadutri, a member of the ruling Democratic Party  and has the backing of 100 MPs.

“Free Wi-Fi would have a big cultural impact and help the economy recover, starting from industries such as tourism.”

It will cost $6.3 million over three years as a contribution to buying equipment. The proposers aim to bring the bill before parliament by mid-2015.

In a recent study, penetration of broadband services with a speed exceeding 30 Megabits per second in Italy is lower than 1 percent, well below the European average of 6 percent.