Swindon is to be become Britain’s first “wi-fi town” with free internet access available to all its 186,000 residents. A £1 million network of 1,400 “access points” similar to the wireless routers installed in millions of homes will be sited at strategic locations around the Wiltshire town. The free network, named the ‘Swindon mesh’, will allow all residents access to the internet but will not be fast enough for streaming films without a fee. Subscribers can sign up for 20Mb upgrades for “significantly less per month than major broadband competitors” following a free three-month trial, the council said.
There will also be pay-as-you-go options so visitors to the town can also use the network.
The project was launched this week as a partnership between the borough council and two private companies which will recoup their investment by offering upgrades and faster access at a yet to be determined price.
The tariff of charges for staged or all inclusive bundles is to be considered next year.
Rod Bluh, the council leader, described the project as “the future of England.”
“This is a truly groundbreaking partnership which will have real benefits for everyone living in Swindon,” he said. “Not only will residents in the borough be able to access the internet for free, the council and its partners will be able to use the technology to provide cutting edge services to the areas or individuals who need them.”
“Digital City will also provide the Council with a unique funding stream and it is our intention to use our expertise to help other local authorities follow our lead. This is the future of England we are talking about.”
The borough council has joined forces with businessman Rikki Hunt, owner of Avidity, and Mustafa Arif, director of aQovia, to form the company Digital City UK. SBC and aQovia own 35 percent each and Avidity 30 percent.
There are plans to deliver information such as real-time home electricity usage and air quality monitoring. It also has the potential to provide free internet phone-calls.
Installation will begin in the Highworth area of Swindon, Wiltshire, in early December and the whole town will be covered by the end of April next year.