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Wireless Networking Hardware

Estonia Embraces Wi-Fi Wireless Internet Access 175

Posted by simoniker
from the eurovision-wifi-contest dept.
securitas writes "BBC Technology's Clark Boyd reports on one man's efforts to make free 802.11 Wi-Fi wireless Internet access ubiquitous in Estonia. An estimated two-thirds of Estonia is now covered by wireless hotspots according to Veljo Haamer, who convinced Estonia's major oil companies, Neste and Statoil, to install free hotspots at gas stations. Two-thirds of Estonia's approximately 280 public hotspots are free to use, all of which are marked with signs. But Haamer still wardrives for dead-spots and next plans to get free wireless access to public parks and green spaces. Last year Slashdot covered Estonia's legislation declaring Internet access a human right."
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Estonia Embraces Wi-Fi Wireless Internet Access

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  • Lady on the train (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ObviousGuy (578567) <ObviousGuy@hotmail.com> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @04:46AM (#9071543) Homepage Journal
    I ride the train to and from work all the time here in Tokyo. The other day an obviously mentally ill woman walked down the isle and asked everyone to turn off their cellphones. The signals made her heart murmur, she said. So at first I turned off my cellphone and just cursed her under my breath.

    Later, after it was clear that she had satisfied her mental illness and sat down in her seat, I fired up my cellphone again for a short game of tetris. Please note that I am about half a train length away from her. When she decided it was time to bother people again, I put my foot down and refused to turn off the phone.

    First of all, the phone is not emitting any signals of significant strength, especially not enough to cause heart palpitations in someone 10 yards away. Second, I was not talking on the phone, which could definitely be considered rude. Finally, I had simply had enough with her mumbo jumbo and needed to express my frustration.

    Now I read this story and begin to wonder if I've caught her mental illness. I am not saying that I get physical side effects from electronic devices. God knows that I'd be dead from exposure by now if that were the case. But I wonder how much technology is enough. If there is any point to trying to maintain a technology free area.

    The crazy woman was trying to create a small radio-free zone around her. I thought she was insane, but now I'm not so sure.
    • by darkgreen (599556) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @04:57AM (#9071577) Homepage
      Actually, I think it's a great idea. The fact that it's wireless lets you get it out of the 'view' of the public - no place to plug into means no lines for an outlet, or crowding around just one place.

      You can take any idea too far, granted, and having wireless everywhere doesn't mean it's ok to use at every chance you get (similar to having coverage for your cell doesn't mean it's alright to start yelling into the phone (and my ear) during my dinner, or commute, etc. Compared to that, I'd take a commute on the train with 50 people clicking away instead of chattering cell phones any day.

      Technology is great, it's courtesy we're lacking.
      • Of course, that's until I read this:
        Cafes that offer free internet access are filled with young professionals checking email, surfing the web, and designing PowerPoint presentations.

        ugh. Powerpoint. I get the feeling I'd be able to hear the horribly-designed templates.
      • Is there any research into bridging these wireless routers? I imagine this would be a nightmare for routing algorithms without being able to use subnets for routing... What kind of routing algorithms would be useful for this?

        Yea it'd be a ton of hops between wireless routers just to travel across Estonia but still it'd be cool to do it without the need for ISP's at any portion of the trip.
    • By two-thirds-coverage, they must mean proximity to a hotspot, right? Like being in the same town as a cafe with one? Maybe I'm seriously misinformed about the current range of these things, but I can't imagine 280 hotspots covering two-thirds of the total area of the country. But no matter how the country is covered, I don't see the problem, especially if wireless just happens to be the simplest way to get everyone Internet access. As long as for most people the Internet remains a means to various ends,
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Well, Estonia is bathing its people in 802.11 waves. In a few years we'll know if there are any problems. Thank you Estonia for your large-scale human experiment!
      • by DigitumDei (578031)
        Don't ham radios put out a much stronger signal on the same frequency range? There was a time when ham radio's were quite popular (and in some places they still are) and I don't remember anything about ham radio's massive cancer causing properties.
      • Re:Lady on the train (Score:2, Interesting)

        by smc13 (762065)
        Aren't 802.11B and G using the same frequency as cordless phones? 2.4 GHZ, right? If a cordless phone doesn't harm you, why would a wireless ethernet connection?
      • Indeed. A continuous wave or narrowband FM signal at 2.4 GHz shouldn't do much harm other than warming things a little. However, when you start sending all sorts of pulse patterns it becomes a whole different matter.

        I can see a possibility of small water droplets functioning as a small AM demodulator for 2.4 GHz signals -- after all, temperature will follow signal intensity. If such droplets are enclosed in something else, pressure will vary with the same pulse rithm. Perhaps it's even possible to make a s
    • Not improbable (Score:2, Interesting)

      by upside (574799)
      I saw a TV programme that featured a teacher who has become hypersenstive to electomagnetic radiation. He can't get close to mobile phones or computers or he becomes ill. Apparently copy machines are the worst.
      • Was this a journalism "feature"? I'm wondering if they were looking for something to hype, and didn't perform a proper test.

        Of course, when you're filming for a TV show, you don't want to cut production half way through on accound of a lack of proper evidence. You'll have already spent a good deal on equipment, crew, and possibly props.
    • Re:Lady on the train (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Living in Tokyo myself, I can only assume that after causing a scene with a mentally handicapped lady, everyone was staring at you, the crazy gaijin causing a scene. Was that game of Tetris THAT important?

      For those not in the know, there are signs on all the trains in Tokyo that specifically say you can't use your cell phone on the train, and it must be turned off near the priority seats at both ends of the car. (These are for senior citizens, handicapped people, pregnant ladies and so on so forth. It's
      • by Anonymous Coward
        The problem here is evident in the way you phrased your post. The right should be quiet and let the loud and wrong walk all over them. This is why the Yakuza is as strong as they are, this is why the streets are littered with bags of garbage.

        In the west we have the saying "all it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing". However in Japan, the emphasis on minding one's own business and keeping one's hands clean is an overarching theme. Because of this, no one is willing to put up a fight
    • Second, I was not talking on the phone, which could definitely be considered rude.

      Why on earth would anyone consider that rude? If the person you were talking to was sitting right there and you were having a conversation, would that be rude as well? I never understood this fascination people have with cell phones being rude to use in a restaurant for example, yet the next table over can have 8 people all talking to each other and acting quite annoying. Why not kick them out for talking as well? I can

    • You know, oddly enough, I feel I too can sense the EM field given off by electronic devices. It's not just the sound....I can almost feel it in the air. Things just seem...more...I dunno, still, when things are turned off. That being said, I've kind of grown accustomed to it, and the hum of the computer itself.

      • I can also feel the 60 cycle hum in my brain, espescially in a room that's using lots of power, or one with a wiring fault. But usually the only times I consciously notice it is if there's a power outage. Everyone hears the fans in the computers and ventilation system slowly shut down, the moment of silence as everyone tries to figure out what's going on ... but a fraction of a second before that, I feel the 60 cycle buzz abruptly stop.

        Also, I have wifi at home and work. And I have slept in the same ro
  • wow (Score:1, Funny)

    wow I would never have imagined petrol station operators being that generous.
  • by darkewolf (24563) <draoidh@iinet.net.au> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @04:49AM (#9071550) Homepage Journal

    A anti-geek as it may sound, I really can't see a need for 100% wireless coverage of any country large or small.

    When I got to parks or outdoors, I do it to relax and escape the technology that I work with and live with. I go find a tree in a nice park near the river and sit quietly and listen to the water, the wind and the birds.

    I really don't want to sit there and hear some guys talking about how they can watch their stock prices change second by second now, or some brat fragging a buddy whilst enjoying nature.

    Oh well, I am safe from it in Australia at least.

    • Ya see, my plan is that we strap wifi repeaters on the backs of some dingos and kangaroos and then put bulky, overpowered access points on the koalas. We'll have australia blanketed in warm radio glow in no time!
    • An estimated two-thirds of Estonia is now covered by wireless hotspots...

      As convenient wi-fi technology can be and the benefits of increased accessibility in communication, such developments would probably see some major changes in social values and priorities.

      The world nowadays relies on the internet so heavily, it would be hard to imagine life without it. It may well reach a point when internet communication replaces human face to face contact , relationships are maintained without the need for goi

    • A anti-geek as it may sound, I really can't see a need for 100% wireless coverage of any country large or small.

      Well, if you have 100% coverage, in theory you wouldn't need mobile phones, you could do voice over ip. Free mobile phone calls - neat!
    • by targo (409974) <targo_t@ho[ ]il.com ['tma' in gap]> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @05:12AM (#9071622) Homepage
      A anti-geek as it may sound, I really can't see a need for 100% wireless coverage of any country large or small.

      I really don't want to sit there and hear some guys talking about how they can watch their stock prices change second by second now, or some brat fragging a buddy whilst enjoying nature.

      How is this different from having 100% cell phone service coverage? You could similarly say that it would be bothersome to have people talking on their cell phones everywhere and all the time.
      This has actually nothing to do with coverage and everything to do with people's culture.
      Estonia has had 100% cell coverage for a while now but I must say I find Estonian cell phone users less obtrusive than say, Americans (I live in the US most of the time but visit Estonia every now and then).
      America is about 5 years behind Estonia and other frontrunners in Europe when it comes to embracing cell phones and going through the same problems Europe did (people using their phones as status symbols and showing off and being a pain in the ass). However, people have really embraced the cell phone culture and gotten over the initial growth pain, there's much more respect to other people, less showing off and more maturity in general. I expect America to catch up in a few years in that respect.

      Similarly, wireless Internet will evolve through the same stages, there will be a period of adolescence and then maturity. In 10 years, wireless coverage will be everywhere and we will wonder how we ever got by without it (similar to regular Internet or cell phones today).
      • With small 802.11b/g capable devices getting more and more common and powerful [slashdot.org], 100% coverage is becoming more and more useful. Here in South Africa, cell phone coverage has gotten better and better (to the point where people living in tin shacks and barely enough money to feed their family still manage to own cell phones). One can only hope that something similar with hot spots happens here (though I dobut it). Once things like this take off the benifits are amazing, people just have to learn how to turn t
      • I find this whole 100% coverage a bit strange. Living in the southwest of england (Devon and Cornwall) coverage is nowhere near 100%. One network might cover the area but others won't. So I don't think that wireless networking has much of a chance.

        And does 100% mean population or area? Both in low denisty population areas is surely pointless in terms of cost and visual impact on the enviroment?
      • there's much more respect to other people, less showing off and more maturity in general. I expect America to catch up in a few years in that respect.

        You appear to not have visited US before. We aren't going to catch up on maturity.
    • basically i don't think that covering luxemburg or andorra or sri lanka would be a great deal nor an investment.
      they have hightech around them 24/7 anyway, these waves of net won't disturb anyone.

      but as they are quite big exceptions they obviously don't count as a "country" in your context.

      basically you got tv-signals and radio-signals around you the whole day (except if you dive into the sea), and they don't seem to disturb you, do they ?

      i think i'll have barrel of beer when australia gets it's whole la
      • Its not the coverage / signals that bother me. Its the potential abuse of it I guess.

        I have rarely seen someone with a TV sitting in the park getting in the way of the summer breeze. Radio now and again, and alas far too many mobile phones.

        However I guess its fairly inevitable. I guess its time to buy wireless to prepare for never being able to escape work:

        Boss: Hey, I know you told us you were picnicing all weekend with family, but our test server that is used once a week during business hours has g

    • There are lots of places where cellphones just don't work (like behind hills/underpopulated areas), and they can be a blessing.

      I can imagine a time in the future when areas like Scottish Isles will become even more popular because cellphones don't work.

    • "When I got to parks or outdoors, I do it to relax and escape the technology that I work with and live with."

      Ok, now lets look at a viewpoint outside of your own. Believe it or not, it is a real convenience for a lot of people to be able to access the internet anywhere, wirelessly.

      Just because you go to the park or outdoors for one reason in no way means that everybody else needs to do it for those same reasons. If you don't want to sit there and listen to the guy talking about his stocks, move somewhere

      • You do make very good points here, I will have to concede and agree with you :P

        Oh well, I can see a use for it myself. Could sit in the park writing on a tablet and email the work back to the home machines easily enough.

  • I'm envious (Score:2, Interesting)

    by strook (634807)
    If only my college campus could have wireless access comparable to Estonia's. And I go to Berkeley, you'd think it would look more like the future by now.

    This is America, we're supposed to have the best of everything at the mere cost of selling our souls. So how come I don't get free wireless internet? How come we're 10th in percent of the population with broadband access? I blame monopolistic business practices. Wake me up when SBC finally opens their lines to competitors like they were allegedly forced t
    • by ectoraige (123390) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @04:54AM (#9071565) Homepage
      we're supposed to have the best of everything at the mere cost of selling our souls. So how come I don't get free wireless internet?

      Sadly, souls aren't the valued commodity they once were. Too many people selling, the market is over-supplied. Now mini-iPods, you sell yours, you'll get your free wireless...
    • by pubjames (468013) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @05:37AM (#9071692)
      This is America, we're supposed to have the best of everything

      You don't have the best of everything. We've got stuff here in Europe you don't:

      1) Yummy chocolate.
      2) Castles! Real ones! We've got lots of them!

      And, erm. That's it. But isn't that enough?

      Bet you're jealous about the castles...
      • The Indian food is better in UK. Plus we also drive on the better side of the rd. Finally, Nokia cellphones sold in Europe/Asia beat the crap out of any mobiles you get in America.
      • Re:I'm envious (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by PsiPsiStar (95676)
        No, I'm jealous about the Sweedish bikini team.
        And we can import chocolate.
        • No, I'm jealous about the Sweedish bikini team.
          And we can import chocolate.


          In Soviet Russia, you would be jealous about their chocolate and import the Sweedish bikini team.
      • 1. For some inexplicable reason, the Europeans I've talked to really like Hershey chocolate, which is crazy because its crap compared to most European chocolate I've tried. Guess the grass is always greener.

        2. Didn't some guy buy a castle, take it apart and reassemble it here? :)
        • Nonsense, US chocolate tastes like chemicals. Disgusting crap. Now, your chocolate milk on the other hand is delicious!
        • > Guess the grass is always greener.

          That's another thing - the grass is much stronger in Europe, and not criminal in Spain, Holland or (since April) the UK.

    • This is America, we're supposed to have the best of everything

      Says who? It's no law of nature. You certainly don't have the best public healthcare, and the overall quality of life indexes are highest in the Nordic countries. And don't get me started on the quality of the USA's polical processes.
      • Says who? It's no law of nature. You certainly don't have the best public healthcare, and the overall quality of life indexes are highest in the Nordic countries. And don't get me started on the quality of the USA's polical processes.

        When nordic nations state owned oil companies run out of oil to drill and sell we will see how long you have that "free" healthcare. :)

        • When nordic nations state owned oil companies run out of oil to drill and sell we will see how long you have that "free" healthcare. :)

          1) Nobody said it was free. It's self-evidently not. However much of Europe has heathcare available to all, funded by tax. And you know what? For all they bicker about just how to run it, they wouldn't give it up. Not for anything. Any political party that proposed abolishing publix healthcare would be comitting electoral suicide.

          2) When speaking of public heathcare I was
    • > we're supposed to have the best of everything

      Americans have the _most_ of everything (e.g. debt and polution) not the best.

  • Neste (Score:4, Informative)

    by rasjani (97395) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @04:49AM (#9071552) Homepage
    Just a sidenote, Neste is not Estonian company. Its Finnish company, part of the bigger Fortum concern.
    Links:
  • Statoil (Score:4, Informative)

    by blcamp (211756) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @04:51AM (#9071558) Homepage

    And Statoil is not Estonian, either.

    It is Norwegian.

    http://www.statoil.com/

  • by Anonymous Coward
    That's not how to do it :-)
  • by grisken (776441) <heno@helges.net> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @04:56AM (#9071573) Homepage Journal
    Companies like statoil (which is a norwegian state owned company) might release this service as free in a certain "test" period. But i doubt they wont charge people for this if wi-fi really takes off. Statoil did this in norway too. You coud access free wifi hotspots, but after a couple of months you had to pay for it. (About a dollar pr. mb transferred). Though Estonia and Norway are two different countries (here, gas makes only for 13% of gas stations income profits. The biggest is actualy sousages and soda)... but as i said. Im skeptical.
  • by jpu8086 (682572) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @05:02AM (#9071593) Homepage
    how in the world do 280 public hot spots cover two-thirds of a country (that is 45,226 sq km [cia.gov] in area)?

    what is the technology behind these super hot spots? or is this just another case of aggrandized mathematics?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yep, its wrong, the article only says that 2/3 of them are free. I am living in Estonia, and there are plans to cover our capital - Tallinn - with free wifi access.

      But the hotspots are ubiquotuous here - and clearly marked. So when you come to visit, dont forget your laptops.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2004 @05:21AM (#9071646)
      I'm Estonian from Tallinn and most certainly it's not true that 2/3 of the country has been covered by wireless internet. What mr. Haamer was meaning was probably that in 2/3 of the country you're able too find a spot where you can use wifi. Whether it's a gas station, hotel, cafe etc. A quite big part of the country is covered by forests and there it would be very difficult to find any urban comforts, not only wifi :-)
      In the capital, Tallinn wifi spots are quite easy to find, but many of them are not free. No coverage on the streets yet, but the city authorities are planning to cover some parks in the center with wifi.
    • Perhaps they mean two-thirds of the population. Which in a small country could live in only a few towns and cities.
    • the next question is how many estonian possess portable computers? or wifi equipped pda? laptop to me is still considered a luxury item.
  • by lastberserker (465707) <{babanov} {at} {earthlink.net}> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @05:08AM (#9071611) Homepage Journal
    Countries of Vatican and Luksemburg quickly followed the lead and covered their respective territories by Wi-Fi access points. One per country.
  • by manavendra (688020) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @05:08AM (#9071612) Homepage Journal
    I'm not sure where this is leading to. Certainly other /.'ers haven't said much about this. Yet.

    Education is declared a human right in several countries, specifically the developing countries, but do they get it? Even with government-funded schools and subsidies? Isn't this a case of stuff-in-your-face?

    OTOH, it's good to have Wi-Fi access points at as many places possible. This is truly a step towards the ever-shrinking, connected, global society. But then again, what would be the impacts? How will such a culture change us? With easier and faster access, it isn't far when the only sport would be "surfing" - and the one that doesn't involve any boards !
    • by cozziewozzie (344246) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @05:39AM (#9071698)
      Education is declared a human right in several countries, specifically the developing countries, but do they get it? Even with government-funded schools and subsidies? Isn't this a case of stuff-in-your-face?

      It is, and it should be. Education is not just a basic human right, but also a basic human responsibility towards others. If you don't want to learn how to live in a civilised society, go live in a cave somewhere.

      I pity all the people who don't have access to free education, or are denied it all over the world, while some fat kids from rich countries think it is their right to sit in front of the TV and never learn to spell. Let them eat cake, I say.
  • Mission Impossible (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dutt (738848)
    It's got to be a hell of a job to try and administer a fully open network, covering 2/3 rds of a country.

    Just imagine how tight you would have to have the security, and even then it would be hard to keep control over it all.

    Administration of it all sounds like a impossible mission. We'll maybe not impossible, but very hard.

  • by m4k3r (777443)
    Estonia hey...

    that's an aweful lot of pringles cans I'm gonna need for free net.

  • Not true. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2004 @05:19AM (#9071640)
    First, I live in Estonia.

    The claim of 2/3 coverage is of course nonsense. I don't know where this came from. The BBC article tells that 2/3 are free to use (although I don't think it's true, maybe it was so half a year ago), not that 2/3 of the country is covered.

  • Spammers paradise? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by holgie (588031)
    Wouldn't this make it spammers paradise? Or is there some sort of authentication?
    There are 2 Kinds of planes: Fighters, and targets.

    There are 2 Kinds of boats: Submarines, and targets.
    There are 2 Kinds of 4x4's: Jeeps and SOB's (Some other brand)
    There are 2 Kinds of OS's: Unix, and brain-farts.
  • by yess (678141) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @05:32AM (#9071677)
    I live in Poland, about 10 hours far from Estonia. Now I know, where to emigrate, when my government finally goes to hell with the rest of the country, or at least tries to legislate something similar to DMCA.

    I feel a kind of sad, when I see similar opportunities wasted here in Poland, where Internet access is still a luxury due to TP S.A. - national telecommunication monopoly.

    At least once both Estonia and Poland are in the EU emigrating won't be that hard... ;)

  • by orlinius (181137) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @06:14AM (#9071770) Homepage
    It seems that every other day there is a big article or TV show that reveals how advanced Estonia is in every hi-tech domain.
    Let's just not forget that Estonia is a really tiny country with a population slightly over 1 million people.
    It is very easy to introduce such initiatives on such a small scale.
    Most of Paris has free Wi-Fi now offered by the Paris municipality, and this in terms of population is bigger than Estonia. I don't see anyone bragging about it.
    The other day they showed on TV how advanced Estonia is. You can pay your parking lot or buy flowers by SMS. Wow, that's really advanced and even if it so, I don't see how practical it can be. Come on, lose 2 minutes to type and SMS instead of paying by cash or credit card....
    • by Peter Cooper (660482) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @08:02AM (#9072082) Homepage Journal
      You can pay your parking lot or buy flowers by SMS. Wow, that's really advanced and even if it so, I don't see how practical it can be. Come on, lose 2 minutes to type and SMS instead of paying by cash or credit card....

      I would personally find that VERY useful.

      For a start, carrying change is cumbersome, most parking machines don't accept notes, and you can never be 100% sure if you have the right amount of change on you (or in the right denominations). Once I went to my favourite parking lot and found the price had gone to 5 from 4. I had 4 of change on me. So I went back to my car (a few minutes' walk in this particular lot) and scrambled around and found a pile of change which got me to the 5. Then I went back to the machine and put in it.. but after 20 coins it wouldn't let me put in any more!! This forced me to find a shop, buy something I didn't even want, just so I could get some change (how else do you get change? change machines are not common in the UK)

      And credit card? Gee, the only parking that takes credit cards is when you book it, or if you use some fancy expensive place downtown. For general parking, forget it. You need your change, or else.. and in a society where otherwise you never need to carry notes or change, it's ridiculous you still need it to park.

      Estonia has got it right.
    • At least paying for parking is very practical. You don't need to
      decide in forehand for how long do you park, for example. Usually, you
      have this SMS saved in the phone and you send it when you are on the
      way from you car already. If you have Nokia, you can instead of SMS browse a
      special menu and park using it (at least if you are Radiolinja GSM
      client). When you come back to your car, you call a special
      number to finish the parking. Simple and very convenient! I am really
      missing the possibility for parking by S
    • The other day they showed on TV how advanced Estonia is. You can pay your parking lot or buy flowers by SMS. Wow, that's really advanced and even if it so, I don't see how practical it can be. Come on, lose 2 minutes to type and SMS instead of paying by cash or credit card....

      Would you rather lose those minutes whilst walking to where you want to go, or would you rather lose those minutes stuck in a queue?

      Phillip.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      estonia is a COUNTRY, paris is one single f@#$%^& city in the big and powerful france. considering the scales its quite mentionable for one little country to push on the hi tech front like that. but all that bragging in the media about how 1337 we are actually makes me feel ashamed. think im gonna move to australia.

      but sms parking and also sms bus tickets are pretty neat gimmicks.
      • I spent Christmas in Pigalle and Montmartre and couldn't find a single bloody hotspot. I'm sick of hearing about Estonia too, no disrespect intended to the Estonians. It's just media hype...
  • I can't find Estonia on my Cold War era globe.

    In Soviet Russia, free wireless internet is accessible by you!
  • by tiger99 (725715) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @07:59AM (#9072076)
    This seems to me to be a little bit excessive, unnecessary, and making it a human rights issue seems to me to be an excessive but understandable reaction to having emerged from the horrific opression of communism.

    In the UK we do not have full cellphone coverage, the fact that there are 5 competing operators makes it even less economically viable to equip remote or mountainous areas where, perversely, they are more likely to be needed in cases of genuine emergency. Having full internet coverage by any means, except maybe by hovering airships, which is being seriously considered to cover rural areas, is simply impossible. Maybe Estonia has suddenly become very rich, if so, well and good, but I think in most countries there would be more pressing needs. Nonetheless technically it is quite an achievement to have got so far, and I am impressed.

    So why can't my cable company, NTL, give me broadband? I live in London, the largest city in the UK, if not Europe. It really makes me sick, maybe I should move to Estonia, or make it a human rights issue when we are freed from the horrific oppression of Blairism.

  • by Peter Cooper (660482) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @08:10AM (#9072113) Homepage Journal
    Okay, Poland has the people and the position, but I'd say Estonia is the most promising of the new ex-Soviet EU states.

    Ten years ago, as I read on the BBC, only 15% of homes in the country had a regular phone! Now they have wireless internet, the majority of people have cellphones, and quite a few people speak English. The government has radically pushed away from Soviet norms in implementing low business taxes, and is fostering a great environment for new businesses. And from what I've learned through the CIA Factbook and the BBC, Estonia has a very low crime rate and chicks who look like this. [miqrogroove.com] Per capita income is also still low, so employees would be cheap. The country also looks pretty.

    The downsides? It's darn cold in Winter, and it's not cheap to fly to (yet).

    Still, it looks like Estonia is a promising little nation who understands the concepts of the free market and capitalism in generating better living conditions.. and if I had to choose one of the new EU states to live in.. well, Estonia looks the most promising for those in business.
    • by nuffle (540687) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @08:27AM (#9072192)
      It's not that cold. Well, depends on what you're used to, of course, but this past winter here (my first in Estonia) was comparable to the ones from the Midwest in the US. It got a little colder, but less snowfall. In any case, I don't want people to get the impression it's Arctic cold.

      And yes, as software engineer living in Estonia, I can say that the economy seems very promising for the tech industry. Wifi all over country may not be that necessary, but its indicitave of the investment that the government and industy is willing to make in popularizing tech. Also, the people here are generally quite tech savvy. No checks in Estonia; everything is bank-to-bank transfer done generally through the internet (most people (literally) use internet banking here).

      And just to complete the brochure here, it's a very pretty country. I live in the capital, Tallinn, which is a pretty hip town, especially in the warmer months. It's got an old downtown with beautiful medieval age architecture, but with a lot of good restaurants and bars and shops. The countryside is also pretty, relaxing, and easy to get to. Finally, every thing is dirt cheap (compared to America). Oh, and yes, the parent poster is correct: Estonia has the most beautiful women in Europe. The sidewalks may as well be runways; it's uncanny.
    • Low crime rate?! I have to call bullshit:
      8th worst nation for murders [nationmaster.com]
      5th worst nation for robberies [nationmaster.com]
    • Well, it might look that way from the US, but the reality is different. Estonia gets a lot of money from tranist of oil and other goods from Russia to Europe. And not because they add a lot of value, they are just located properly. Expect this to stop as soon as Russia finishes its own terminals on the Baltic sea. Second huge source of money in Estonia was Swedish and Finnish capital. These countries were very eager to invest in this little friendly country when it because independent, but it's not like the
  • Even the Estonian government has gone hi-tech. Cabinet ministers meet weekly in a room fitted with more than a dozen high-end computers, complete with flat screen monitors and broadband connections.

    Ahhh, so when the meeting gets boring, they can surf the web and check their /. karma. :-)
    • Even the Estonian government has gone hi-tech. Cabinet ministers meet weekly in a room fitted with more than a dozen high-end computers, complete with flat screen monitors and broadband connections.

      Hip equipment doesn't mean much. When I see our Russian cabinet meetings on TV, they usually sit in a room full of Vaio's, and nobody ever seems to do anything with the laptops, except using them as personal screens for centralized presentations. That doesn't make them any more tech-aware.
  • And all this time I thought Estonia was a creation of Dilbert - Who would have thunk it?

    I agree with posts above - 100% Wi-Fi coverage is not necessary. I hate looking at a laptop monitor outdoors. You can't see anything anyway - And all that dust...

    Malls, buildings, bus/train/plain statations YES

    Parks/supermarkets NO

  • Statoil is Norwegian, not Estonian. It's the Norwegian State Oil Company, and Norway is the only European country that is a major, major oil exporter.
  • A few comments (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2004 @11:31AM (#9073846)
    I'm also a software engineer in Tallinn, like another poster. To address a few of the points:

    - As someone else mentioned, 2/3 of the land area of the country isn't covered. You could actually make an argument that 2/3 of the population is in a WiFi area, but that's mainly because 2/3 of the population lives in the 2 largest cities (Tallinn and Tartu). At least for me, when I travel to another town in Estonia, I check the wifi.ee website to see where the nearest WiFi point is in that area, so I can get on the Net.

    - I've been in the room where the cabinet ministers conduct business, and it really is a computer at each minister's seat. I haven't seen a live session so I can't say how much they use them, but apparently they are used to distribute information (instead of printing out lengthy documents).

    - The places that charge for WiFi are not that pricey. It's usually about 70 eurocents to use it for a 24-hour period. You just fire up your browser and try to go to a URL and you end up at a webpage that tells you to SMS a certain number and it'll SMS you back with a password. The nice thing about it is almost all for-pay WiFi points are run by the same company (Uninet), and your password works at all Uninet access points during that period. I jump from coffee shop to coffee shop. You can also buy a monthly contract with Uninet, but that's only useful if you use for-pay access points very frequently.

    - Very few of the access points have any type of security, and some even have open mail relays. I don't think this has caused any problems, maybe because of the type of person who would use the access points (business people, students), but it may become an issue in the future. I'm sure there will be some sort of uproar when someone tries to hack into something while using a public access point. But the risks are also there in a public internet cafe, since they don't check your ID there either.

    - Yes it's correct that part of the reason Estonia is "high-tech" because it's easy to implement things like this in a country of only 1.4 million people. But I wouldn't say that's a negative point. In some ways, the country can serve as a testbed before rolling new technologies out in other countries. Is it wrong that the government promotes the internet? I don't think it is.

    - I don't buy these doomsday predictions about how it's so bad to have WiFi coverage in so many places. Don't use it if you don't want to. I work at home, and usually at least one day a week I'll go out for lunch (at a WiFi-enabled place of course), then hop around to different WiFi hotspots through the day, as I work. It works great for me.

    - The price of setting up a hotspot isn't that bad. You just need the WiFi access point and a DSL line, which can cost as little as 30 EUR per month. A lot of businesses already have DSL anyway, so then it's just the one-time cost of the access point. For instance, I'm pretty sure those petrol stations already had DSL on premises, so it wasn't a big deal to add the access point.

    - The crime statistics for Estonia are slightly out of proportion for 2 reasons: 1. The population is somewhat small, so the percentages are greatly affected by a few abnormal events (law of large numbers). 2. There are some areas with very high crime, that throw things out of proportion. These areas tend to be areas where unemployment is high, which usually means the areas where native Russian speakers live (because most jobs require that you speak Estonian -- long story). The areas with the WiFi access points, in Tallinn for example, are not in those areas. I've lived in major cities in the US and in Tallinn, and Tallinn feels much safer. Like most European cities, you don't have to worry about some guy shoving a gun in your face, because guns are difficult to obtain. I do watch out for pickpockets on the public transport (oh, and you can buy tickets or monthly passes for public transport using SMS also).

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