Government To Install Free Wi-Fi In 1,000 Public Buildings

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Public buildings in the UK’s super connected cities will be turned into free Wi-Fi hotspots

More than 1,000 public buildings in the UK’s super connected cities will be fitted with wireless access points, offering free Wi-Fi to residents and visitors.

Libraries, museums, transport hubs and other buildings will be turned into hotspots, with some already active. Work on other locations is well underway and it is expected all will be fitted in time for March 2015.

The government says the free Wi-Fi will make the super connected cities more attractive to live, do business in and visit and will ensure world-class connectivity.

Free public Wi-Fi

Leeds city night lights 4G wi-fi © Morgan Rauscher Shutterstock“For business, visitors and the UK public, accessing wifi in our cities is absolutely vital,” says digital economy minister Ed Vaizey. “These free hotspots will be instrumental in making UK cities even more attractive as places to not only do business, but to visit as well.”

The cities to benefit from the rollout are Aberdeen, Belfast, Brighton & Hove, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Derby, Derry, Edinburgh, Leeds/Bradford, London, Manchester, Oxford, Perth, Portsmouth and Salford, with famous locations like the National Gallery, British Museum and Manchester Town Hall among those to be fitted with access points.

The £150 Super Connected Cities programme has endured a difficult life since its inception, with the original vision of publicly owned fibre and wireless networks diluted by legal challenges from those who believed it amounted to state aid.

The wireless aspect of the programme has remained intact, with Cardiff and Birmingham among those to partner with the likes of Virgin Media and BT on public Wi-Fi, but instead of publicly-owned infrastructure, SMBs in the cities have been invited to apply for superfast broadband vouchers, redeemable with a range of operators.

However, as of last month, just £7.5 million of the £100 mllion available from the government had been claimed, with many businesses unware of the scheme. This led to a simplification of the process and a £2 million advertising campaign with just six months of the programme left to run.

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