Blend Images/Jetta Productions/Getty Images
If the Berlin Senate passes legislation for free WiFi within the Berliner Ringbahn, you too could join this man using his tablet computer anywhere in the city.
If the Berlin Senate passes legislation for free WiFi within the Berliner Ringbahn, you too could join this man using his tablet computer anywhere in the city. Blend Images/Jetta Productions/Getty Images
Free WiFi may soon be available to all and sundry on the streets of Berlin if the city government's plans are realized.
But before you run out into the street waving your mobile device around in a gratuitous display of unadulterated glee (Wooh! Free stuff!), bear in mind that the Berlin Senate has put the project on hold before.
The free WiFi scheme has been on the agenda since 2007 but fell apart after a drawn out debate in the Senate.
Senators raised a number of concerns, including the possibility of illegal file sharing and the lack of infrastructure required for the project.
The new CDU/SPD state government has resurrected the plan for free WiFi within the confines of the Berliner Ringbahn as part of larger policy to support the digitization of the city.
Tourists and residents will be able to access free internet as part of the scheme, which will be paid for through advertisements, marketing strategies and billable offers.
Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit emphasized the importance of IT policy in the CDU/SPD coalition agreement, with the coalition appointing SPD IT policy expert Björn Böhning to the newly established ministerial post for IT policy.
While Berlin has already become a European center for start-ups and tech firms, Böhning wants to build a sustainable base to ensure the city remains attractive. The coalition is currently working on the implementation of the region's open data initiative and Böhning says net neutrality will be a major policy objective.
The sudden interest in net policy represents a major turn around for the Senate. For Berlin's previous governments, the need for more infrastructure and policy support in this area hasn't been a priority.
But the success of the Pirate Party in the recent municipal elections has helped to push issues such as broadband expansion, net neutrality, and open data onto the agenda. The Pirates have also volunteered their expertise to help with the implementation of the WiFi scheme, which the party describes as essential.
While cities such as London have been pouring millions into attracting IT entrepreneurs and major tech firms, Berlin's previous policy, or lack-thereof, hasn't done much to put off would-be Mark Zuckerbergs from swarming to the new Teutonic tech mecca.
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past two years, you should have noticed Berlin's magnetic draw for digital start-ups.
The now well-worn phrase "poor but sexy" was how Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit once described the city, but Silicon Allee instead of Silicon Valley seems to be the new mantra.