New free public wifi project opens for registrations

WiFi4EU vouchers will give municipalities €15,000 to install wifi equipment in public places

The networks will not only be free for users but, under the rules of the scheme, must also be free of advertising and free of personal data harvesting. Photograph: iStock

A new initiative from the European Commission could see free wifi hotspots developed in libraries, museums, public parks and squares, providing vouchers worth €15,000 each for municipalities to connect public amenities.

The vouchers can be used to buy wifi equipment and install it to create a free public wifi hotspot.

Interested parties are being invited to register with the WiFi4EU web portal, ahead of the first call for projects in May, when 1,000 vouchers will be issued. The project has a total budget of up to €120 million by 2020.

“Thanks to the WiFi4EU programme, local communities will be empowered to bring connectivity closer to citizens, allowing them to fully benefit from the endless opportunities of digitisation. It is a concrete step towards the realisation of the digital single market,” said Mariya Gabrial, Commissioner for the digital economy and society.


The scheme is open to 8,000 municipalities in EU member states, plus Norway and Iceland. A total of 15,000 vouchers will be issued to each participating country.

The concept of free public wifi may sound familiar if you have been around Dublin in recent years. A project rolling out free wifi to the city centre was implemented in 2012, but the provider, GoWex, went bankrupt a couple of years later. Although the signs still remain around town, the service itself has been shut down.

Local authorities

But this project could see a network of hotspots spring up around Ireland, with local authorities around the State among the bodies eligible to apply for funding.

Networks will not only be free for users but, under the rules of the scheme, must also be free of advertising and free of personal data harvesting. They will get funding only if they do not duplicate existing free private or public offers with a similar quality in the same public space.

The scheme is part of an overhaul of EU telecoms rules.

"By opening the WiFi4EU portal today, we are taking a concrete step towards helping municipalities provide free wifi," said vice-president for the digital single market Andrus Ansip. "While this is important progress, I also strongly encourage the European Parliament and Council to conclude work on the proposed telecoms code to ensure high-speed connectivity across the whole of the EU. This includes Europe-wide co-ordination of spectrum, and forcefully stimulating investments in the high-capacity networks that Europe needs."

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist