Málaga City Hall's free public WiFi access declared illegal

Court rules that unlimited public access constitutes unfair competition for private servers

The free WiFi access installed in Málaga's municipal buildings and available to all is illegal, says the National High Court. The city government has been slapped with a fine of 300,000 euros after the court's chamber of administrative litigation upheld a sanction imposed by the CMT telecommunications watchdog against the city authorities for offering the service without informing the organization.

The sentence, the first of a series that will affect other local governments offering a similar service, obliges Málaga City Hall to register as an internet provider in the Operators Registry and pay the corresponding taxes. The ruling subjects public administrations to the same requirements as pay operators such as Telefónica and Jazztel.

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WiFi: Public and free, but limited

The General Telecommunications Law obliges all internet operators - whether private companies or public authorities - to register and inform the CMT they are providing net access. The only exception is in cases of "self-provision," which is to say Málaga's network would be legal if it was only for employees and was solely used for council work.

Magistrates pointed out that according to a January 2010 CMT communication, public bodies can only provide free internet access "in libraries, cultural centers and meeting or multi-use rooms in civic centers." Málaga City Hall installed wireless routers in such places as its own headquarters, the Picasso Museum and its Cervantes Theater.

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