After the recent earthquake in Kumamoto, Japan a former coworker posted this article in Facebook:
Japan is implementing a system whereby all public wifi networks switch to open access for all customers after a natural disaster. The link above has an English translation explaining the background, but in summary after the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011, it became clear that people were cut off from information, rescue services and family during natural disasters. So, the idea was create a unified wireless network that people could use after a disaster, regardless of the network carrier, to access the Internet and such.
As of 2015, the service was still under trial, and does not fully work because of the challenges of getting a single wireless network to work across all carriers and users, but they were still continuing with the project.1
Anyhow, the way it works is that in the event of a major disaster, all network carriers will broadcast a single network SSID 00000JAPAN. Any phone or wireless computer should be able to see this network and join it, thus connecting to the Internet. With it they can call for help, or get in touch with family.
I think it’s a great idea, and though I hope never to experience a natural disaster, I wish they would implement something here before the next big earthquake.
1 The article also notes that during a disaster, physical access points for the wireless network may be severed from the Internet and not work properly anyway.