The incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has officially pulled the plug on the free Wi-Fi project in Punjab, including the provincial capital Lahore, after it was revealed that the project was causing heavy annual losses to the provincial exchequer.
Initiated by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government back in 2017, the free Wi-Fi project featured the establishments of over 200 Wi-Fi hotspots in Lahore, Multan, and Rawalpindi. It covered public spaces, including railway and metro stations, airports, colleges, and universities.
Therefore, for the best part of the past three years, the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) had been providing free Wi-Fi service in public spaces for the masses.
However, as reported by The Express Tribune, the project was incurring a massive loss to the government of Rs 195 million per year. This naturally had a negative effect on the provincial exchequer, hence why the current government felt it necessary to put an end to it.
The free Wi-Fi project has been suspended once before, on a temporary basis. Back in January 2019, due to non-payment of dues to Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), the government ended up suspending the project. However, as a result of the massive public backlash that followed, the government had no choice but to restore it. After all, the closure of free Wi-Fi was affecting a large number of students and common citizens.
This time, however, the suspension appears to be permanent. The facility has also been terminated for journalists in the Lahore Press Club.
In all fairness to the Punjab government, however, a collaboration is being carried out with PITB to provide sustainable Wi-Fi facility to the citizens in the near future.