May 16, 2016

    Germany clears way for free Wi-Fi in public


    TRY looking for a free Wi-Fi connection in a cafe in Germany and, more likely than not, there is not one. Forget about looking for open connections in parks or at key monuments too.

    The absence of such free hotspots can appear to be an aberration in a country known for its technological prowess.

    But a new government deal may change all that as it tackles the root of the problem - by exonerating the connection's provider of fraudulent usage by others.

    The snag has been Germany's tough rules to crack down on online piracy, with high fines for illegally downloading music and films.

    No one wants to run the risk of exposing his Wi-Fi connection to possible misuse, a fear that has turned Germany into a hotspot desert.

    A 2014 study by Eco, a federation of Internet professionals, found that there were only two open hotspots for every 100,000 residents in Germany, compared with 10 in Sweden and 29 in Britain.

    According to the agreement reached this week within Angela Merkel's government, the law will be amended so that "Wi-Fi providers would be considered like access providers" - that is, they are waived from all responsibility of users, and "will not be subject to any required checks".

    For Eco, it spells the end of the "great wall" to the development of hotspots in Germany while hotels describe the move as an act of liberation.

    But not all are happy.

    The music industry federation fears that it could hurt creators and artists, and warned that the move has "opened the doors and windows to illegal usage".

    The proposal is not expected to come in force before autumn.