Paris plans 400 free Wi-Fi hot spots, high-tech seating

Paris plans to offer visitors and citizens free Internet access over Wi-Fi at 400 hot spots across the city, with the goal of citywide 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 said this week.

The city authority wants to encourage development of a more nomadic lifestyle in public spaces. The project will cost around €3 million ($3.6 million), city spokesman Lionel Bordeaux said Wednesday. The city will split the cost equally with the administration responsible for the greater Paris area, he said.

The hot spots should each be able to serve 30 users simultaneously, providing a reasonable quality of Internet access, Bordeaux said.

Paris is not the first city to have such ambitions: San Francisco, among other U.S. cities, is also planning a citywide 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 too. Commercial hotspot operators will be offered access to municipal buildings, lampposts, newsstands and other street locations to site hotspots, the city said.

The city will also encourage development of new laptop-friendly public seating in a university neighborhood in the 13th Arrondissement, a district on the southeast side of the city. The furniture could include chairs and benches with integrated laptop rests, and perhaps also solar-powered electrical outlets, the city authority said.

Hot spots are planned in 63 public libraries, 200 public gardens and squares and 40 district offices of the city hall.

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