Worthy groups awarded free web access

More than 40 UK communities will receive free Wi-Fi for at least three years regardless of the current connectivity in the area, following a competition to find worthy users.

More than 40 UK communities will receive free Wi-Fi for at least three years regardless of the current connectivity in the area, following a competition to find worthy users.

The winners of the competition, which was organised by Freerunner, the free public Wi-Fi network, were announced on 17 December.

Freerunner is using a combination of traditional broadband, satellite and 3G technology to connect underserved or remote communities to the internet, the company said.

Freerunner picked 46 communities from more than 500 entries from charities, mosques, scout groups, community centres and others. Winners were selected based on how big an impact the prize would make.

Freerunner CEO Owen Geddes said, "We wanted to start with those most in need, so we put the call out and the response was pretty overwhelming. This relatively low-cost technology is going to fundamentally change nearly 50 communities across the UK."

Geddes said government and corporate sponsors are essential to rolling out free internet access to communities. Its first corporate partner is ADSL 2+ broadband supplier, BE, which will be providing a free broadband connection to those who have no connection at all. BE offers links with up to 24mbps download and 2.5mbps upload.

Ian Johnson, project leader for the Black Country Learning Academy, said many people in the area had never been online and knew little about IT. "Freerunner's Wi-Fi means we can set up new internet-enabled computers, allowing us to run more literacy, numeracy, IT and UK-Online courses, improving peoples' job prospects."

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