Argentine Planning Minister Julio De Vido said Monday that the government will install free WiFi in public places around in the country within four months.
The news comes just days after De Vido announced that the government would give Fibertel, one of the country’s leading broadband providers, 90 days to shut down.
Critics will likely interpret the WiFi announcement as a last minute move designed to win favor amid what seems to be a massive rejection of the plan to kill Fibertel.
If installing free WiFi hotspots around the country were such a good idea, some may ask, why is the government announcing this now, just days after it said it would kill Fibertel?
People love free WiFi. But it’s unclear if the news will reduce concern about the decision to kill Fibertel. De Vido sought to assuage that concern in a radio interview.
“People shouldn’t be worried at all about this,” De Vido said. “There are 389 Internet providers around the country. People aren’t going to have any problems getting a better service and even for less money. There are an infinity of providers that are able to offer this service. I absolutely guarantee that not one customer will end up without service. We’re not going to cut anyone’s service off.”
De Vido himself was a Fibertel customer until a few days ago, when the newspaper Clarin published the personal email address of his wife. Fibertel and Clarin are both owned by the multimedia conglomerate Grupo Clarin.
“At no time will customers have to suffer a traumatic end to their service,” De Vido said, acknowledging that it took him “an entire afternoon” to let contacts know that he had changed his personal Fibertel email address.
“We’re going to work very hard in the next 120 days to install WiFi around the country,” De Vido said. “Everybody is going to be able to take their notebooks to plazas and other areas to do their work. We’re going to have enormous spaces with free Internet, first in big cities and later in smaller towns.”
De Vido said Fibertel has to be shut down because it is illegally operating without an appropriate license. An experienced corporate attorney told The Argentine Post, however, that, Grupo Clarin will probably not have to stop offering Internet through Fibertel.
The battle over Fibertel will end up in court and Clarin will likely win, the attorney said.
Whatever the case, here’s hoping that those free WiFi hotspots do show up at some point.
Grupo Clarin had previously opposed plans by the City of Buenos Aires government to install WiFi around the city.
To listen to the interview, in Spanish, click here (you’ll need Internet Explorer)