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Prague's City-Wide Free Wireless Project Runs Into Telcom Opposition

March 15, 2007 By

Succumbing to the year-long fight over city-provided free wireless Internet in Prague has run into more than a slight snag. The City Council has now dropped the word "free" from the "Free Internet for Prague Citizens" name and it has given the planned initiative a revamp. Even so, City Hall's goal of deploying a city-wide wireless broadband service is anything but clear sailing as opposition continues.

The ambitious free wireless Internet service that the municipality in Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic, originally proposed in January 2006 to provide wireless broadband to more than a million residents has now been divided into two phases. And it has been renamed as "Wireless Prague."

The first phase -- Phase One -- entails building a backbone network in 21 out of total 57 Prague districts. Per the latest plan, this will now only allow free 64 kbps access for citizen to access City Hall services. Additionally, this network will also be used to enable the schools and the City Hall offices access the Internet at a cost to be borne by the city government. Phase One is already under implementation.

But it is the controversial second phase -- extending the Wi-Fi network to the rest of the districts in Prague -- that is now head for a showdown. Prague's private telecom operators are arguing that, "in the territory of the capital city of Prague, the availability of broadband Internet already reaches 100%." They say that even though Prague City Hall has revamped the plan, Phase Two still would present unfair competition to existing commercial Internet providers even if it wasn't free. New ISPs could resell city network bandwidth at reduced cost, something the existing telcom operators would have difficulty competing with price-wise.

"Initially the Association of the Providers of Public Telecommunication Networks (APVTS) filed the complaint with the European Commission to stop non-commercial free access to Internet," says Hana Jel

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