A bit of good news about the Italian government for a change: a recent article in Der Spiegel praised Italian politicians for their successful efforts to establish free, citywide Internet networks.
In Ether with Your Espresso?, author Richard Meusers touts pilot projects in Rome and Florence that ‘show that a bit of creative thinking can make widespread free Internet access possible.' Meusers compares Germany's failed efforts to establish free W-Lan networks in its major cities to Italy's successful programs, saying that Italy is a country ‘where politicians seem to be much more committed to the idea. At the beginning of this year, ambitious projects aimed at creating citywide W-Lan launched in two locations. Now, both Rome and Florence are wireless.'
Meusers highlights Italy's most enviable pilot projects. Provincial president of Rome, Nicola Zingaretti, has worked effortlessly on wiring Rome, which now boasts the country's largest public wifi network, counting over 500 hotspots around the capital, including some 4,200 businesses. From Villa Borghese and Campo de' Fiori to the Colosseum to a host of bars, restaurants and hair salons, it will be possible to surf wireless and free of charge almost everywhere by year's end. Zingaretti is also in talks with the state railway to establish free wifi in train stations throughout the Rome province.
Meusers cited another pilot project, recently launched by the Province of Rome, the region of Sardinia and the city of Venice: the countrywide Free Italia Wi-Fi initiative. Established in November 2010, its goal is to provide the entire country with free Internet access by connecting existing public wireless networks. The provinces of Florence, Prato, and Pistoia, which comprise the greater Florence area, recently announced their participation in the nationwide effort.
Meusers praised also Florence for its recent efforts to extend the city's free wifi network along the Tramvia Line 1 route. ‘By the end of February, the city will select the company that will equip the city's 7.5 kilometre-long Tram Line No. 1 with wireless antennas and underground cabling. The project is expected to be completed by summer, at which time all light-rail passengers, the 14 stations along the route and residents within 100 meters of the line will have free Internet access,' the author wrote. This new service will flank the existing Firenze Wi-Fi initiative started by the city and Province of Florence in November 2009, which provides free, one-hour Internet access 24/7 in 12 of the city's major squares and parks (see TF 128 for more information).