Open Citizen's Network

In my recent trip to northern Finland I had the opportunity to use a cool network service in the Oulu area: panOULU is an open wifi network you can freely.

Freely meaning several things: not only that you do not have to pay but also that you do not need any type of user ID, which is great if you happen to just be visiting the area for a few days.

Just opening your laptop and being able to use the network with the peace of mind it is not going to cost you an arm and a leg it's just great. I was able to upload the photos to my Picasa account so my family and friends could be updated. This same action would had been outrageously expensive should I were using the GPRS or 3G connection (getting the photos printed and sending them by a courier service is actually cheaper than your cellphone data service).

This week I've read that European regulators are asking the mobile operators to reduce users costs when using their mobile data services abroad. The point is that as far as the EC is about a Europe without borders, it does not seem to make any sense that we, European citizens, are being charged a lot more money when we use our cellphone on another European country than when using it at our home country.

Fortunately, most of the time I can wait till I get an inexpensive data connection when I am traveling so I do not have to face huge cellphone bills. Still, I've just fell in love of having free and open wifi access as a city-wide service. It is so convenient for travelers!!

By the way, I have to mention that I also selected the Oulu Scandic hotel (quite nice actually) because they offered free Internet access too. So my point here is that the same way as city planners think carefully about many other useful services to be deployed, like light poles or traffic lights, they might start thinking about how much value an open city wireless network may mean to visitors.

Of course, they fact that such a network might be used by some people to make VoIP calls may upset some cellphone operators (though some cellphones are actually equipped with Wifi just for this same purpose). But governments should be for pleasing citizens (voters) more than operators (campaign contributors?).


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