Malaysian govt obliges restaurants, cafes to provide free WiFi

Along with salt and pepper, Malaysians will soon find something else free when they walk into a restaurant. A law passed by the government mandates free WiFi for all restaurants in Kuala Lumpur. Not just restaurants but cafes, pubs and lounges which are larger than 120 sq meters. The law will come into effect from April 2012.

The news of free WiFi in Malaysia comes on a day when the government of landlocked nation Belarus has banned accessing foreign websites. This makes the free WiFi in Malaysia particularly refreshing, almost tantamount to Finland’s recognition of Internet as a birth right.

Is that good news? Certainly if you carry one of those WiFi hungry doodads. A WiFi capable phone can be bought for as little as $100 and an additional WiFi hotspot while drinking your morning coffee would make the phone purchase that bit more worthwhile. All over the world data plans are expensive and the speeds unreliable. This has put massive pressure on WiFi.

The Malaysian government is offloading the WiFi hotspots provision. It already had 1,500 Hotspots whose contract is coming to an end. Sighting an opportunity the government has decided to give crowd sourcing a shot. This is a smart move by the Malaysian government for various reasons and a definite win-win. The government can keep its hands off the never-ending process of free WiFi and restaurants can win new business.

It could be pain in the neck for the restaurants to provide WiFi but it’s a pain which they have to endure like they did for electricity and water. After all, Internet is the electricity of the 21st century. Restaurants can use this as an opportunity to attract customers by boasting about their speeds. You know, something like “Have your McChicken burger and watch YouTube at 7 MBps speeds”

And of course we always have our advertising to go back to. Restaurants can use advertising as an additional source of revenue for providing free WiFi. This is if the government hasn’t put any clause that they can’t display ads, in which case, the law isn’t much of a win-win.

This sounds like a neat idea. What do you think? Would it work?  Could this model be replicated in other cities too?

Via TNW Asia | Source : NewStraitsTimes. Image credit : Flickr User Karen V. Bryan