Hotspots Are Not So Hot. Yet.


Shortly after I moved to Paris, the local and regional government launched a city-wide network of 260 free public wi-fi hotspots in libraries, parks and other public spaces like museums.

The museum part I don’t get. The rare seating options in museums aren’t ideal for working at a laptop even if you wanted to. They’re designed to keep you from lingering too long. Besides, if your cell phone rings in a museum here, the little guy who stands around to make sure you’re not slashing the Renoirs rushes over and stands in front of you till you turn your phone off. So it’s not really practical to check your e-mail with your mobile device in a museum either.

But I still think providing such extensive wi-fi coverage in Paris, even if it’s impractical, is a good start.

I am one of those people who can’t stand the thought of working in a coffee shop. When I’m in a library I’m too self-conscious about how loudly I’m typing or sniffling or whatever. And the “no food or drink” thing doesn’t work for me.

What I would love would be to work outdoors every now and then. Being from southern California, I really miss the sun sometimes. It would be nice to work in some of the lovely Parisian parks on sunny days. But they don’t have the nifty covered picnic areas you have in the U.S. On the other hand, you’ve got the tables and shelters but I don’t think there are a lot of parks outside of New York City that have wi-fi. Am I right? I poked around on some of the sites Mike Gunderloy listed in 14 Ways to Find a Wi-Fi Signal but couldn’t find any that would allow you to search for a specific kind of wi-fi location by keyword (I wanted to search by “park”). I saw lots of chains and hotels and the odd RV park…

The public wi-fi service here is government funded (with taxpayer money), while in the States, it’s private companies that tend to offer wi-fi. And they’re not doing a very good job of it, evidently. An article I read on Mashable recently stated that “most high-profile network-building efforts across the US have stalled with no indication or any sign of real progress to be made.”


Having public wi-fi in places where web workers could actually work would be a huge improvement in our quality of life. Once there’s wi-fi in all public parks, we’ll need ergonomically designed seats and tables under solar-powered shelters (they do it for bus shelters) that provide electricity for outlets so we can get some fresh air while we work. It’ll happen. In the meantime, some other innovative options are becoming available.

A Dutch organization, the Spare Space Foundation, offers pop-up workstations that they set up in vacant buildings. That idea needs to catch on elsewhere. Also, according to, there’s an increase in “work-centered BEING SPACES” like New York’s Paragraph and The Village Quill, very cushy members-only co-working centers that cater to writers. Alex Johnson left a comment on a previous post of mine saying that Shedworking was the next big thing. Great idea if you have a nice back yard!

As a teenager, I didn’t hesitate to lug a cooler, lawn chair, boombox, bag of snacks, water, sunscreen, magazine—you get the picture—to the beach. These days, I would gladly carry a personal pop-up workstation, a picnic lunch, and my laptop to the park. Wouldn’t you?

Know anybody who’s looking for a business idea?

University of Cincinnati


Andi alpha1 is public now.
Some features will be released in alpha2.
And we miss data, so you are encouraged to add some WiFi Locations you know.



What your tax dollars don’t pay for, you pay for. So in the end, you still pay, or you get nothing if you can’t afford to pay. That doesn’t strike me as a particularly good deal…

There’s something to be said for living in a place where bridges don’t collapse and steam pipes don’t explode. I paid less taxes in the US, but I somewhat resented paying taxes there because compared to France, I had a feeling I was getting pretty much nothing for my money.

In France, I pay a bit more, but I get so much more (good free schools for my kids, good and cheap healthcare, excellent infrastructures, bullet trains, super-fast, super-cheap Internet thanks to the tax dollars spent on modernizing the telecom infrastructures, etc.).

In that context, free WiFi is a drop in the budgetary bucket and a nice touch.

I don’t know about Pamela’s idea about working outdoors, but it does mean I can take a break in a public park or catch an exhibition in a museum during business hours, while keeping an eye on my email on my iPhone, thus minimizing the risk of missing an important client request or losing a gig.

Pamela Poole

Andi, I’m so glad to know that will allow you to search for hotspots by type of location! Good luck with your startup and thank you for providing that service!

Pamela Poole

In some of these comments there seems to be resistance to the idea of tax money paying for public wi-fi, resentment at the thought that some people might have free Internet access on our dime, and a failure to see exactly how essential the Internet is to our societal infrastructure.

Comparing our dependency on Internet connectivity now to what it was 10 years ago, the natural conclusion I reached was that free public wi-fi is just the next logical step. People, businesses, society in general are increasingly unwilling or unable to function without the Internet.

It also seemed to me that, if more people begin to telework as time goes on, which I hope will be the case for the sake of the environment and general quality of life for workers, we’ll get out less because of it. So having the option to work in a pleasant and healthy open-air setting would be a welcome change in much the same way that picknicking from time to time provides a relaxing and beneficial change of scenery.

It doesn’t seem so far fetched to me, but then again, I’m a bit of a sci-fi geek and a Utopian…

Beer Meister

C’mon! Is not having wi-fi access in the park really a big issue? Yeah, public wi-fi would be great, but in the meantime, if you want to work from the park, get a cellular card from your local wireless provider and pay for that privilege. I would rather my tax dollars pay for real civic infrastructure (I know I am dreaming) than provide MySpace and YouTube access to teens tanning in the park. Realistically, how many people would an expenditure like this benefit? You can still go to the library, McDonald’s, or any number of places for your out-of-office internet access experience, just leave my tax dollars alone. Why should the public subsidize your sun-worshiping experience?

Pamela Poole

Hi Jo. Well, countries with socialist leanings like France tend to use their taxpayers’ money to actually provide public services. The guy who wrote the Mashable article thought it would be nice if the US govt. used taxes to provide free wi-fi too. I think it ought to be as free as TV. Some CA Democrats agree, even if they’re not going about it the right way: And I don’t think it’s a given that everybody’s government spies on them. Just certain governments…

Pamela Poole

Hi Ben. I’m sure up there at latitude 44 you like to take advantage of the sun just like I do at 48! It would be such a healthy trend if it took off. I’ll be curious to find out what comes of your research, so let me know!


Why would anyone want government run WiFi paid for by tax payers money? Let’s just let them into our computers by that free WiFi.

And for that matter – where does it say anyone has a “right” to free WiFi anywhere?

I don’t like working in a cube, but I like my job and adjust.

Ben Overmyer

This is a very interesting idea that I would love to see implemented.

In fact, I’m going to research it as an option for here in Brookings, South Dakota – it may get chilly and snowy in winter, but in the warmer months we have more sun (and FRESH air!) than most of the rest of the USA. I bet an outdoor co-working spot would go over famously here!

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