Free the internet within Auckland CBD

Free Wi-Fi – every city should have it, so why hasn’t Auckland got it? It’s almost 2011 and we’re still stuck in a deep rut where one must purchase a hot beverage in order to reap the benefits of what should be free in the first place.

Five years ago in a land far, far away – that is of the ‘free’, America – Matt Lake asked a similar question in his article, should cities offer free Wi-Fi?.

Lake asked whether “cities should offer wireless broadband to their citizens,” and I instantly said yes. But I also believe that free wireless broadband in major cities of New Zealand should not be limited to its citizens, but to any users of this incredibly fast service.

Lake’s article also makes another valid point by stating that free Wi-Fi is a “great way for cities to market themselves and attract businesses and tourists.” And its now the end of 2010 in Auckland, and I have yet to see such an attractive service.

If I was Auckland City Council I would have given Libbie Lee free Wi-Fi access last year when she was desperate to e-mail her assignment to meet a deadline. But no, due to the bus arriving twenty-minutes late, she wasn’t able to get home on time to submit her essay. That’s when free Wi-Fi would have acted as her personal Superman.

How Stuff Works informed me that “wireless networks are easy to set up and inexpensive.” So why hasn’t the new ‘Super’ Council of Auckland City thought about providing free internet to its passer-bys and taxpayers?

A flourished and booming city like Auckland would be a lot prettier if there was free access, even for 5 minutes, for one to quickly check important e-mails, update their Facebook and Twitter statuses, upload exciting photos of on-the-spot events, online banking, check updated breaking news, and the list goes on. There are so many more reasons to justify why there is a need for free wireless broadband within the CBD.

I really don’t see the hardship behind this. If there is free parking ranging from 5 – 60 minutes, then why isn’t there a similar system set-up for Wi-Fi? I spoke with Auckland Council, simply asking them why there is no such service offering you and I, him and her, and all of them.

And her response to my questioning to speak with someone regarding Wi-Fi was, “what was that word again, dear?”

The kind lady didn’t know what I was asking about, so I had to repeat ‘Wi-Fi’ several times. I was put on hold for four minutes until she returned with a whole bunch of information regarding how to PURCHASE the Wi-Fi available to us.

So, I requested to speak with someone who could inform me on why there is no FREE Wi-Fi. The kind lady’s only option was to e-mail the ‘Broadband Team’ – I am yet to hear back from anyone (a week later and I am still waiting).

What triggered me to write this article was when I sat in Esquires waiting to meet a friend. While I waited, I decided to use the “free” Wi-Fi that Esquires provides its customers via ‘Tomizone’. In order to utilise this “free” service, a customer must purchase food or beverage – so technically, there is no such thing as a free Wi-Fi service. Excited to check my Facebook, the net was down. ‘What a waste of an unwanted latte’, I thought.

On the Auckland Council website regarding Wi-Fi in the city, it states that their approach was to “work with the private sector to facilitate the implementation of fast affordable Wi-Fi services to the CBD and fringe.” So I thought about this very hard for a split second. Why not remove the private sectors and work with the government, local or national, and implement a FREE service to all.

FREE Wi-Fi in Auckland CBD – attractive or ugly? We all have a reason to want and/or need it, so should we demand it? Yes! Because we can’t keep buying unwanted and unnecessary lattes. Or even worse, to those who are super naughty, they can’t continue to steal unsecured Wi-Fi.

What are your thoughts?

Editor in Chief at here SMNZ, I have a passion for social and digital media. When not writing and managing SMNZ I am the Head of Innovation at TAG The Agency, a digital ad agency and the Head of Sales and Marketing for End-Game, a software development agency. I'm also involved with a number of startups and I am always keen to support those that are bold enough to give things a go. Start something, better to try than to live wondering what if...

7 Comments

  1. Bobby Shen Reply

    I similarly hate the way cafes market ‘free’ Wifi without delivering it. But this also happens with the city network. If you look around some of the (usually empty) public courtyards, there are metal boxes with ‘Free Wifi’ on them, apparently provided by the city. Never works, never has. Instead, desperate city goers have to hunt for rare pockets of unprotected private Wifi, or leech off Skycity Metro… at the very least this city needs to provide truly free Wifi for the CBD.

    1. Libbie Lee Reply

      Thanks for that, Bobby. It is indeed an annoying trait that cafes with ‘free Wi-Fi’ carry, let alone the annoying fact that a city in a country that helped to invent the EFTPOS machine doesn’t provide free Wi-Fi that any of us know of…

  2. Jennifer Lorimer Reply

    I wonder though, who is Auckland City’s Telecommunications provider? If they use a local company to provide their own internet there is no way they could then offer this up for free to the general public when the Telco is trying to sell it to them also.
    Of course if the council have their own fibre cable and/or generally aren’t at the whim of the Telco, well then I don’t know why they wouldn’t consider offering free wi-fi.

    On the note, I read an article on stuff.co.nz recently that suggested Kordina (or something) was going to trial free wi-fi in Auckland – so I’ve tried their hotspots when they pop-up as a option. But nope, still not free and am redirected to a page explaining how to pay for it.

    Auckland is lagging – I also read an article that Wellington was planning to offer free Wi-fi – I don’t recall if it was just for the World Cup though. You would think the ‘Super’ city may want to compete with the other major metro for appeal to tourists at least with some free Wi-Fi to check the ruby scores.

  3. Libbie Lee Reply

    Thanks for both of your responses, Jennifer and Bobby.

    Jennifer, I believe it is Kordia who assists with the technical bits and pieces, i.e. ‘free’ Wi-Fi system, in Auckland.

    The following link directs us to an article published in The National Business Review in January 2009 regarding Kordia’s involvement with Auckland’s ‘free’ Wi-Fi:

    http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/kordia-expands-auckland-wi-fi-network-39657

    Author, Chris Keall, explains that “Aucklanders get more public wi-fi from today as Kordia expands its network around the city’s CBD – but unlike San Francisco, there’s no free ride.”

    Keall’s article also informs us that metro wi-fi networks are becoming more and more common overseas (while we’re still stuck in that rut I mentioned earlier). This article also illustrates how San Fransisco has more to smile about than us Aucklanders. Keall points out that in the “pioneering municipality, San Franscisco, public wi-fi runs on two tiers: a free, open wireless network, operated by Google and supported by advertising, and a faster network, operated by Earthlink, that citizens have to pay to use.”

    How lucky are the residents and passer-bys of San Fran.?

    Well, just recently, in another National Business Review article, published on the 26th of October 2010, (http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/kordia-offers-aucklanders-free-wi-fi-least-15min-132084) Kordia is now “offering Aucklanders 15 minutes’ free access to its Metro WiFi network today.”

    How about that?! At least they aren’t ‘holding-out’ on us as much as they used to be – it’s better than nothing, right?

    Well, I still haven’t seen this 15 minutes of free access come up on my laptop when I search for ‘hot spots’… Instead I get free access to information regarding touristy-stuff within Auckland. Cool!

    Free-free internet, wherefore art thou?

  4. Libbie Lee Reply

    Thanks, Rachel. That does sound brilliant – free internet access without any hidden costs or having to purchase anything!

    And yes, it is a very useful deal that the library has going on. Now I feel the need to investigate who is providing/ funding this service in this public arena 😉

  5. Jai Reply

    Everyone should move to Newmarket. Nufield St has free Wi-Fi though doesn’t seem to work in Mecca on the corner but great in the Brew Bar etc. I’m hoping this is the start of the trend.

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