Google ends Free Public Wi-Fi Program

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Google Inc on Monday revealed that its winding down on its free public WiFi program 5 years after its launch. The program offers free internet connectivity at public locations such as universities, malls and railway stations in emerging markets.

According to Caesar Sengupta, VP of Payments and Next Billion Users at Google, the program which was launched in 2015 has helped millions of users connect to the internet everyday — a first for many.

The continued drop in prices of mobile data leaves Google free WiFi program with little or no impact, hence the the company’s plan to discontinue the program.

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The program which has rolled out hundreds of free WiFi’s in 9 countries including Nigeria and South Africa, will be ended this year and the sites transitioned into other useful ventures for the communities.

Google Station was launched in Nigeria in 2018 with plans of rolling out about 200 Google Stations across five cities – Lagos, Kaduna, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, and Abuja by 2019.

However, it launched with 5 of the stations in Lagos, including University of Lagos; Computer Village, Ikeja; Muritala Mohammed Airport Wing 2; Ikeja City Mall; and the Palms, Lekki already live.

But in February 2019, Google began facing issues from the Nigerian telecoms regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). According to NCC, Google Station was operating its free WiFi in Nigeria without being licensed by the commission. Hence it was not paying the applicable fees, levies and taxes like other players in the telecommunication sector.

Later in September, Google Station’s services in Lagos were suspended as Google was said to be having issues with its service provider. This was reported to have affected lots of users who had grown fond of the service. Although as at the time, operation in Abuja was still on.

For its Nigerian users the shut down of Google’s free WiFi is coming barely 2 years after its launch and for users who have gotten accustomed to the service across all the stations, they will have limited time to use it for before it is rolled up, this time finally.

Juliet Ekwebelam

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