Wi-Fi in Kaiserslautern is free but limited
By JENNIFER H. SVAN AND MARCUS KLOECKNER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 22, 2014
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — It’s possible to access the Internet from a personal tablet or smartphone and drink a cappuccino while downtown, now that Kaiserslautern has about two dozen public Wi-Fi areas.
But don’t expect the free surfing session to outlast that cup of joe. The service, in fact, may be more hassle than it’s worth, with time caps, multistep log-in requirements and spotty coverage.
Daily use of city Wi-Fi tops off at 30 minutes and 300 megabytes of data, according to the KL Wireless website. Users wanting more time can log on to another wireless network for an additional 30 minutes. After that, it’s possible to pay for unlimited access – 1.99 euros per day and up to 9.99 euros per month, said Guido Hartmann, general manager of K-net, one of several companies working with the city on the project.
With the launch of the hot spots this fall, Kaiserslautern has joined a growing list of German cities to offer free, public Wi-Fi. But as is the case in Kaiserslautern, access in many cities is limited: A small number of hot spots results in gaps of Wi-Fi coverage in some places, or surfing time is capped.
Berlin set up free Wi-Fi in 2012 and now has hundreds of hot spots – but free daily usage is also limited to 30 minutes.
Kaiserslautern has about 25 hot spots, with the majority set up in the pedestrian zone, including Stiftsplatz and Schillerplatz, Hartmann said.
Though many smartphone users already pay for free Internet roaming through individual service plans, Hartmann said many plans have data limitations.
“This is still good for anybody who wanted to use the Internet but does not want to spend their own data volume,” he said.
To access the Internet, mobile users first must register with identifying information, a requirement that stems from a cumbersome German copyright law that holds Wi-Fi providers responsible for how other people use their online networks, Hartmann said. After signing on to the “KL-wireless” network, users must enter their cellphone number on an online form and wait to receive a text message with a temporary username and a password.
The connection terminates at 30 minutes. To log on for an additional 30 minutes, users can switch over to Westpfalz wireless and go through the same log-in steps.
The Wi-Fi zones are visible by the pink “Hotspot” signs and phone boxes set up around the pedestrian area. But the wireless technology doesn’t work inside every downtown business. The maximum range of the signal is from 80 to 100 meters. Businesses farther away from the hot spots might have problems receiving the signal, Hartmann said.
City officials said the Wi-Fi project is intended to strengthen the reputation of Kaiserslautern as a technology center and move the region forward while serving its citizens and guests, according to a city press release.
Free public Wi-Fi was recently extended to Pirmasens and is expected to soon reach other cities in the Westpfalz region, such as Enkenbach-Alsenborn, Ramstein-Miesenbach and Kusel.
Surfing the web isn’t the only thing people can do with their mobile digital devices in Kaiserslautern.
Since August, motorists are able to pay parking tickets on the spot with their smartphones through PayPal, city officials say.
Drivers scan a parking ticket’s “QR-Code” with an app on their smartphone and enter the relevant information on the website that comes up. From the website, users can pay the ticket from their PayPal account.
The city will test the project — unique in Germany — for one year, according to Kaiserslautern’s mayor.
In September, the city of Kaiserslautern also launched its redesigned website, billed as being more user-friendly. The site — http://www.kaiserslautern.de — can be viewed in German or English and includes a city map, tourist information and a calendar of events, among other features.