Free, public WiFi

Free public WiFi provides connection to the digital world for many people who do not have regular access to digital data plans either on their mobile device or at home. It is distinct from 'free' WiFi offered in shopping malls which results in users being tracked and bombarded with spam. All of Australia's capital cities, except Sydney, offer free public WiFi but typically just in the CBD.  Free, public WiFi should be extended to community and shopping centres in low socio-economic areas, including regional Australia, where many households and individuals have no reliable, access to the internet.

There is a substantial pay back to government and society as improved digital literacy among this low socio-economic group facilitates efficiencies via digital transformation.

An additional service that can be provided via public WiFi networks would be free telephone calls.  This would require negotation by DoCA with the telephone carriers, but there would seem to be no technical or commercial barriers to providing free telephone calls over public WiFi.  This service is provided over New York City's public WiFi service.


Why the contribution is important

Measures to address digital inclusion are critical to building national confidence in the benefits of realising the opportunities arising from the digital economy.  Free, public WiFi is one of the lowest cost measures that government can take that will have a real impact on the digital skills of a large number of the lowest socio-economic Australians.  Note that high income Australians with large mobile and home data plans tend not to use public WiFi, so this is a measure that is naturally targetted at lower income groups.

by JAMcCredie on October 31, 2017 at 01:50PM

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  • Posted by SteveofAdelaide November 01, 2017 at 01:55

    City of Adelaide's FREE publc WIFI is incredibly popular and the city council is Building an integrated smart city that includes the upgrade and expansion of the free service to ensure ubiquitous broadband access. The city recognises the need to ensure all who live, visit, work, study in our city have access to broadband nternet service.
  • Posted by DigitalEconomyTeam November 02, 2017 at 15:40

    Great feedback thanks JAMcCredie and SteveofAdelaide, free public Wifi certainly provides many benefits including socially by increasing inclusion and economically by connecting consumers more easily with businesses.

    Are you aware of any downsides?
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