Paris plans 400 free wi-fi hotspots and laptop seats around city

French capital to be covered

Paris plans to offer visitors and citizens free internet access over wi-fi at 400 hotspots across the city, with the goal of city-wide wi-fi coverage by the end of 2007.

The city administration will also encourage development of new street furniture to make laptop users more comfortable.

It wants to encourage development of a more nomadic lifestyle in public spaces. The project will cost around €3 million (NZ$5.8 million), city spokesman Lionel Bordeaux says.

The city will split the cost equally with the local authority responsible for the Greater Paris area, he says.

The hotspots should each be able to serve 30 users simultaneously, providing a reasonable quality of internet access, Bordeaux says.

Paris is not the first city to have such ambitions. San Francisco, among other US cities, is also planning a city-wide wi-fi network, provided by Google and EarthLink, and partly funded through advertising.

In Paris, the city authority is stepping into what is largely considered the domain of private enterprise, taking advantage of a French law that allows municipal authorities to intervene and provide such services for the public good where the commercial offering is deemed insufficient.

However, the city wants business to play its part in rolling out coverage. Commercial hotspot operators will be offered access to municipal buildings, lamp posts, news-stands and other street locations to site hotspots, the city administration says.

The city will also encourage development of new laptop-friendly public seating in a university neighbourhood, in the 13th Arrondissement, a district on the south east side of Paris. The furniture may include chairs and benches with integrated laptop rests, and perhaps also solar-powered electrical outlets, the city authority says.

Hotspots are planned in 63 public libraries, 200 public gardens and squares, and 40 district offices of the city administration.

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