6월 22, 2018
A project that was first floated in December 2016 has finally come to fruition in
Italy: the Italian government has released an app –
wifi.italia.it – that will eventually allow free internet access for Italian citizens and tourists throughout the country with one single login.
What is wifi.italia.it?
By downloading the smartphone app and signing up, devices will detect when a participating network is available and will connect automatically, eliminating the need to fill out forms or ask for login details every time you want to access a Wi-Fi network. According to the app itself, the aim of the project is “facilitating access of citizens and visitors to the artistic, natural and cultural heritage” of the country.
To begin with, hotspots will become available in public buildings such as museums. Next will come targeted areas like train and bus stations – and eventually, if the project is successful, the whole country will be covered.
As part of the first phase of the launch, Wi-Fi access is already available via the app in popular tourist destinations such as Rome, Milan and Florence. It was reportedly downloaded over 30,000 times in the first few days, but many were left feeling disappointed and it would be fair to say that the reaction has been largely negative.
Italian national newspaper La Repubblica set out to test the service once it went live – and quickly labelled it a “flop”. The newspaper sent reporters to locations in Rome and Milan to attempt to access the Wi-Fi service and found they were mostly unable to do so.
The service works by allowing users to connect to Wi-Fi nodes participating in the program; while the testers found they were able to connect inside certain public buildings when close to the routers, connection was impossible from further away or outside since the signals were too weak. A further irony is that the app includes a map of hotspots offering the service – but for the moment, since it is so difficult to connect to the free Wi-Fi, users are forced to spend money connecting to 3G in order to check the locations.
Italy’s internet playing catch-up
Italy’s internet is notoriously slow, ranking among the worst performers in Europe, and this initiative represents an attempt to make up some ground. However, although the new system is only in its infancy, its poor early performance does not bode well for the future, especially in a country that already lags behind its neighbors in internet services.
For the moment, it would seem the service is far too sporadic and unreliable to be seen as a genuine option for staying connected while travelling in Italy. At best, it is worth downloading the app and using the service whenever it is available. However, for the time being, wandering the streets of Rome or Milan in search of these elusive hotspots would quickly become too frustrating for most users, especially since tourists outside and away from hotspots are probably the ones who need the internet most to find their way.
The problems – a summary
Here is a summary of why the wifi.italia.it system is not a recommended Wi-Fi solution for travelling in Italy:
- Hotspots are limited to only a few locations in the most popular tourist destinations. It is impossible to use the free Wi-Fi service outside in the street – and that is precisely when most people will need it to use Google Maps to find their way
- Most of the country has no coverage at all – away from a few places like Rome and Milan, there is no free Wi-Fi
- Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe and the number of people trying to log on is likely to be high – with hundreds of tourists and locals all trying to use the same network, internet speeds are likely to be extremely slow if it connects at all
- Since Italian Wi-Fi is among the slowest in Europe, even if you do manage to connect to a hotspot – or a Wi-Fi network in a restaurant or hotel – the network speed itself is also likely to be very slow
- Connecting to any public network in this way is inherently risky, leaving your device open to possible hacking attacks
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Get the best solution
The wifi.italia.it idea is a positive one; the Italian authorities are taking steps to improve and modernize the experience of the many tourists who visit the country each year – but for the moment, the service still has a long way to go. Until the network is vastly expanded and improved, tourists in Italy will still need to find other ways to stay connected on their travels.
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