Promises to cover Greece with free Wi-Fi hot-spots by summer 2015 look unlikely to be kept as deadlines are missed
Greek island holidaymakers hoping to connect to free Wi-Fi hot-spots next summer may have to wait longer despite Greek government pledges to have a free nationwide Wi-Fi network in place by early 2015.
The Greek Ministry of Infrastructure now says that the first of the promised 4,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots in Greece will not be ready until the late summer in a project that is already estimated to cost the government around €15 million.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras announced in an unusually media interview in November 2013: "I can promise that we will have in Greece free wireless Wi-Fi Internet, in all of Greece, in a year."
By late March, Networks Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis confidently announced that the scheme was on schedule and that 4,000 locations would be included in the first phase of the project.
He said free Wi-Fi access would also be made available in at least 325 locations suggested by Greek municipalities, 100 archaeological sites and museums both on the mainland and on the Greek Islands and at 200 ports, harbours and marinas across the Aegean.
But as the November 2014 deadline approaches there appears practically no hope of achieving the much-trumpeted target and the date for the launch of the first phase of the project has been set at the rather more vague deadline of mid-2015.
The extent of Wi-Fi coverage has also been sharply reduced from the original 4,000 free Wi-Fi hot-spots across Greece and the islands to the less ambitious plan to provide free Internet connection at the 100 archaeological sites and museums and the 200 ports and marinas.
According to the latest revised scheme, people will be able to connect to the Internet for 30 minutes and each access point will be able to serve up to 50 users simultaneously while routers will have a range of 20 meters indoors and 100 metres outdoors.
The delay in this ambitious project is a bit of a setback for the Greek government which claimed that "this is the biggest effort, internationally, on a coverage area basis and its practice is going to be an example for the European Union."
The second phase of the project was expected to extend Wi-Fi access to much larger areas of special interest while the third phase was to include universities, hospitals and public transport systems.
It is not known how far the second and third phase plans are to be put back. The ministry had promised that Wi-Fi systems would be installed in all mainland metro stations by last July and in 1,500 buses and trolleys by the end of September but there has been no sign yet of any installations.
As there is still no clear indication from the Greek government of how advanced plans are so it is probably a good idea for tourists to assume that little will be in place before the end of the 2015 holiday season.
It is not too much of a problem for holidaymakers visiting Greece as private initiatives have already filled many of the gaps, with Wi-Fi access already freely available on scores of Greek islands.
Many hotels, restaurant and bars in the main beach resorts now offer free Internet access to customers and no-one objects to tourists turning up in a cafe with a laptop or tablet provided they buy a coffee or two.
Many cafes, even on the smaller Greek islands, now boast free Wi-Fi in order to attract customers and it is only on the most remote islands and hideaway beach resorts that visitors are likely to experience problem.
Media commentators in Greece said the original promise by Samaras appeared sincere. In a recent opinion piece on his blog 'When The Crisis Hit The Fan', Kostas Kallergis commented that the leader appeared to be giving a concrete and public promise to the youth of Greece, who suffer from the highest unemployment rate in the European Union.
But it must be said that the original announcement was greeted with little enthusiasm by Greeks who repeatedly complain of poor reception and low bandwidth speeds on many internet connections. A bit like Britain really.