Taiwan Premier: Wireless internet to speed up digital infrastructure initiatives

At the Cabinet meeting on March 30th, Taiwan Premier Lin Chuan pledged to expand Taiwan’s wireless internet services as part of government efforts to close the urban-rural digital gap and make broadband services available throughout the country.

The premier was speaking after a briefing by the Executive Yuan’s Office of Science and Technology (OST) about a project to upgrade “iTaiwan” services (free Wi-Fi service in public areas and public transportation facilities)—a project he said will help speed up digital infrastructure initiatives under the government’s Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program.

The project includes providing free Wi-Fi all along Taiwan’s high-speed railway system, which began operating exactly 10 years ago in March 2007, and is now an essential form of transportation for local and foreign travelers, the premier said. The bidding process for tunnel cable installation is almost completed, and construction is expected to begin in early May. The premier asked the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to provide the required assistance to make sure Wi-Fi is available on all high-speed rail trains before the 2017 Taipei Summer Universiade begins in August.

The premier also asked the OST to closely monitor the progress of the entire iTaiwan expansion project, including bidding and construction in May, as well as Wi-Fi installation in July for the Universiade games and in September for the World Congress on Information Technology. These large events will showcase Taiwan’s widely available broadband services and publicize iTaiwan Wi-Fi hotspots, giving both local residents and foreign visitors a positive impression about the nation’s ease of internet access.

According to the OST, more than 10,000 iTaiwan hot spots have been set up nationwide, including in remote areas and offshore islands to ensure widespread coverage while balancing urban and rural development. The service so far has 4.13 million registered users and has been accessed more than 210 million times, including 730,000 times by foreign visitors.

The expansion project will make iTaiwan accounts usable nationwide, providing the ultimate in convenience, the OST said. The office will also coordinate with the National Immigration Agency to make iTaiwan available to foreign travelers as soon as they enter Taiwan.

Meanwhile, fixed-line broadband speeds will be raised from 20 megabits per second (Mbps) to over 100 Mbps, increasing per-capita internet connection speed from 1 Mbps to 5 Mbps. More public Wi-Fi hot spots will also be established across Taiwan, the OST said.