Every day is free WiFi day! - riposte to Intel's One Day

by Sniffer | posted on 29 September 2003

"It was very generous of Intel, T-mobile, Cometa, Boingo, and the rest of the companies to grant a single free day," said Rich MacKinnon of the Austin Wireless City Project and founder of Less Networks. "However, the Partners in Free WiFi want to remind everyone that every day is a free day."


The response was prompted by the "One Unwired Day" promotion which Intel ran as a publicity stunt last week on September 25 during which several commercial "for-pay" providers encouraged WiFi usage by waiving access fees for that day.

Quite what was in MacKinnon's mind when he focused on Saturday 26th September as "Every Unwired Day" isn't altogether obvious.

For a start, the email is marked as "sent 29th September" which is, some would say, a tad late for generating the full impact of pre-launch publicity. And how can one day be every day?

Partners in Free WiFi is a clear enough concept: a partnership among non-profit and commercial organisations supporting the spread and usage of free WiFi hotspots within community businesses.

And the purpose of the counter-promotion is no mystery, either - "to raise the public's awareness of free WiFi alternatives." Many of the alternatives are offered by the owners of independent businesses, local computer user groups, and municipalities.

"There are literally thousands of free hotspots around the world," says Jon Lebkowsky of the Austin Wireless City Project. "In Austin in particular, there are scores of free hotspots. Why would anyone want to pay for WiFi when they could spend the money on another cup of coffee?"

According to market research firm IDC, there were 4,200 hot spots at the end of 2002 and there will be 55,000 more over the next five years. He's talking US-only, of course, but MacKinnon is probably right when he says: "It's a good bet that most of those hotspots will be free."

That said, if the world is full of free wireless, why does MacKinnon's publicity effort mention providers in one American city - Austin, in Texas? "Participating organisations include Austin Wireless City Project, Austin Wireless Group, Austin Free-Net, EFF-Austin, and Less Networks."

Nice, but what about New York, or Westminster, or Stockholm, or ...

Shall we just say: "You need to get out more, guys!" and leave it at that?

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