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Dublin's free Wi-Fi falls foul of competition law

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Dublin has abandoned its plan to blanket the city with free Wi-Fi as it thinks it might breach EU law on state aid, and they haven't got the €27m it's going to cost anyway.

The opposition Labour Party, who originally proposed the plan, are claiming the council has been nobbled by telcoms companies who don't want to see free access undercutting their business.

If the deployment was intended to have a premium level of service, to help funding, then there could well be a legal issue with the government paying for the network to be built. That could constitute illegal state aid.

But if the service is given away free then lack of money is more likely to be the problem. Dublin City Council's intention to still provide free broadband to some areas, where there is a lack of broadband coverage, would seem to confirm that.

Municipal Wi-Fi hasn't fared well around the world, partly because blanketing an area in Wi-Fi is technically very difficult, but also because it's actually pretty pointless. No one is seriously wandering around expecting to receive calls on a Wi-Fi mobile phone as yet, and if you want to use a laptop then it's generally as easy to find a hot spot as it is to find a chair from which to use it. ®

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