The Importance Of Free Public WiFi

Chewing on a lobster earlier this week with Bob Jones, Chairman of Publitek, it suddenly dawned how simple really great ideas are.

Bob has just returned after three months in San Francisco and was telling me how the city is setting up public areas of free WiFi access all over the town.


If you go onto the San Francisco municipal  WiFi site you find there are 32 of these areas designated “free Wifi in Parks, Plazas and Open Spaces”.

The brilliance of this is that it totally enables the young entrepreneur.

You don’t need an office or an incubator to get started, all you need is an accessible WiFi signal and you’re connected to the world and the world’s knowledge.

You see this happening all over the US. Coffee shops are full of youngsters working.

A taxi driver taking me through Del Mar last autumn pointed this out to me saying “they make their money in the morning then surf for the rest of the day.”

This seems to me a very fine way to live.

And the lesson San Francisco is giving the world is that you don’t need subsidised office blocks, incubators and workplace co-sharing to spawn a start-up culture – in fact you don’t need buildings at all when you’re developing and selling ideas – all you need is a free public WiFi signal.



  1. Aha, Yes, SEPAM, maybe they’ve realised the horse has bolted and are now trying to re-capture the nag and shut the stable door.

  2. Yes SEPAM it puzzles me that the cellular network operators have colluded in the spread of WiFi which provides a free data alternative to the operators’ expensive data. I can see that the spread of WiFi limits the capex requirement of the cellular operators but it’s a saving which comes at the expense of cellular data revenues.

    • SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

      Would it be too conspiratorical to think this is the reason why the operators would be interested in mobile communication over unlicensed bands? For, as it happens, the unlicensed bands are where WIFI happens to operate too.

  3. Ha Ha Jamo, very well said

  4. you don’t by a pint, you buy a pint.

  5. I’m up for it Sceppers, I’ll talk to anyone who’ll buy me a pint. I know exactly what you mean – those eerily quiet coffee bars with serried ranks of intense Apple laptop users are unnerving. But it’s always seemed to me that life should be a balance of internal concentration (usually for work) and external socialisation (usually for fun).

  6. Well this has been the norm in Estonia for over ten years, and the ex-Prime Minister, who is now Vice-President in charge of the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, has been promoting this at an EU-wide level. A press release yesterday is worth a look –
    as is the whole WIFI4EU thing –

    I’m always shocked at the lack of WiFi availability in the UK, it’s as bad/worse as cellphone coverage. As your article shows, wireless communication is an essential element in business today and puts the UK at a huge disadvantage.

    • SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

      I suspect lack WIFI availability is a direct result of the quality of cellphone coverage. The more you improve the former the less you need from the latter such as high bandwidth and download capacity.

      • I think that is correct, the only restrictions are network operators permitting data roaming (which is already happening) and tethering so that laptops can use a mobile for cellular access.

  7. Really David, a very fine way to live, you think so?

    Working in isolation must surely limited cross-fertilization of ideas, plus there is no start and end time so when DO you switch off in reality. It takes a hugely disciplined mind to cut-off at lunchtime even with the temptation of the Pacific rollers..

    Finally I abhor the weaselly students crouched over their Pads and Laptops not speaking but talking the occasional sip from a Starbucks skinny Latte (whatever that is) – they depress me beyond words.
    Someone should tell them they can by a pint of bitter for not much more than one of those things and then engage in conversation with a sage elder (I propose you or I).



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