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Wireless Networking Hardware

Estonia Embraces Wi-Fi Wireless Internet Access 175

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

    by strook ( 634807 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @04:49AM (#9071551)
    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 to years ago.
  • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @05:02AM (#9071597)
    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!
  • Spammers paradise? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by holgie ( 588031 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @05:26AM (#9071656)
    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 DigitumDei ( 578031 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @05:28AM (#9071665) Homepage Journal
    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 the devices off once in a while. :)
  • 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... ;)

  • Not improbable (Score:2, Interesting)

    by upside ( 574799 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @05:34AM (#9071680) Journal
    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.
  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2004 @06:30AM (#9071804)
    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 when the time demands it, whether it be taking back a neighborhood from gangsters, admonishing children who are acting up in public with no supervision, or even something simple as demanding that the police do something about grafitti.

    Rather than do something proactive, the Japanese would rather put up a little sign encouraging everyone to play nice. I drive along 357 between Tokyo and Makuhari frequently and see the trash along the side of the road. This is household stuff, in garbage bags. It isn't your absentmindedly tossed pet bottle or coffee can. The signs they put up recently encourage us, "michi wo kirei ni shimashoo" - "let's keep the street clean".

    This kind of passivity encourages the wrong-doers because they know that there is no penalty for doing wrong. Whether it be tossing trash on the road, harrassing other train riders, or driving unmuffled motorcycles through neighborhoods at 3 in the morning, there is no penalty. Anything can be done with impunity in Japan, you just have to have the right attitude. No one will confront you, and no one will take steps to prevent you from doing it again.

    I think it is a cultural flaw that this kind of heiwa-boke exists in Japan. If telling off a woman who is harrassing everyone on the train is wrong, then I don't want to be right.
  • Re:Lady on the train (Score:2, Interesting)

    by smc13 ( 762065 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @06:45AM (#9071848)
    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?
  • 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.
  • Re:Lady on the train (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AKnightCowboy ( 608632 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @08:28AM (#9072196)
    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 understand their point if you're shouting into your lame ass crappy phone because you think it'll improve reception, but if you're holding a conversation in a normal tone of voice then what's the problem?

  • 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).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2004 @12:25PM (#9074565)
    No checks in Estonia; everything is bank-to-bank transfer done generally through the internet (most people (literally) use internet banking here).

    True, and same goes for most of the rest of Europe; at least in scandinavia checks were last used in early 80s or so. They were made obsolete by ATMs with which you can pay bills (transfer money from your account to specific account by company receiving money, always listed in the bill; additionally specifying a reference id also included) in addition to withdrawing money. And no need for specific contract between you and company, to enable such payments (except if you wanted to do fully automatic payment etc). Move to Internet banking was quite naturally after that.

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