Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Best Investment Cities Can Make (and New York's Already Doing It)

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Internet access is always a big annoyance to me while traveling.

On a business trip I need to check my email and write my LinkedIn posts.

On a holiday trip with the family, including two teenagers, internet access is essential to keep the peace.

At those moments I am really pissed off when hotels charge you ridiculous fees for internet access per day (and sometimes even per device). It makes me feel exploited, because they know you can't do without.

So that's when I go out to find a Starbucks, McDonalds or local lunch cafe, which provides me with free wifi, having my fingers crossed the connection is up to speed.

That's why I loved to read that New York City wants to build one of the largest public wifi networks. The request for proposals was announced on May 1, looking for the installation, operation, and maintenance of up to 10,000 hotspots. It will be ready in four years.

Wikipedia reports free wifi is available in some way across 150 cities in the world like: Bangkok (Thailand), Blackpool (UK), Helsingborg (Sweden), Toronto (Canada), Denver (USA), Guadalajara (Mexico) and Stellenbosch (SA). Business Insider report 9 cities with the best free wifi among which are Helsinki (Finland), Taipei (Taiwan) and Hong Kong (China).

In the Netherlands there is a start-up, planning to build free wifi-networks in 38 cities, costing €10 million. It was launched last year in Tiel, a small city of 41,000 citizens.

At the moment, 16,000 unique visitors in Tiel use the free wifi for 20,000 hours per week. Other cities like Leiden (115,000 citizens) and Zwolle (120,000 citizens) are offering free wifi in The Netherlands too. And more will follow soon.

Cities offering free wifi is an excellent idea!

Free wifi makes cities attractive. Both tourists and citizens will benefit from free internet access. Free wifi will promote cities as being cool and accessible. It will make tourists and people from out of town stop at your restaurants, shop in your stores and visit your museums.

It will connect everybody in your community, giving them access to information. Having every visitor and citizen connected will bring all kinds of new commercial opportunities too for local stores, museums, schools, restaurants, hotels and events.

Offering free wifi is perfect city marketing

I'd like to appeal to city councils to promote free wifi for everybody. Why? Free wifi is perfect city marketing. It's innovative too. Wikipedia reports there are only around 150 cities offering free wifi out of around 40,000 cities in the world. So offering free wifi on short term will make your city innovative.

Do I want free wifi always? Well, perhaps not on a quiet holiday, but that's a matter of finding the off-switch of your devices isn't it? I probably won't spend a quiet holiday in the city anyway.

Looking forward to coming to the NYC again, this time with free wifi. I hope a lot of other cities will follow NYC's example soon.

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