Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council have signed a joint deal with wireless smart city provider Gowex to provide free public Wi-Fi hotspots in both cities.
The deployment, part-funded by BDUK, falls within the Go Digital Newcastle initiative, a joint project between Newcastle Council and the European Regional Development Fund.
Go Digital Newcastle already offers vouchers worth up to £3,000 towards the cost of connecting businesses to superfast broadband. It also runs a programme of free support and advice, and grants for equipment and consultancy projects.
The project selected Madrid-based Gowex after hooking up with Wi-Fi consultancy Real Wireless.
Gowex has already provided Wi-Fi hotspots in a number of cities around the world, including Dubai, Miami, New York, Paris and San Francisco.
The company will spend the next few months working closely with both councils to deploy a 24-hour high-speed network across Tyneside, involving potentially hundreds of access points.
It will also provide work for both council staff and contractors. Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle Council, said both authorities had insisted on the use of local labour for the project.
“We’re pleased to say Gowex is paying for the work and maintenance to be carried out by council staff in Gateshead and by our current streetlight contractors in Newcastle,” said Forbes.
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“We’re pleased with this arrangement because it means our installation is being done by local workers who know the area and have the knowledge, equipment and training to do the work to a high standard,” he added.
Malcolm Graham, Gateshead Council cabinet member for employment and skills, hailed the move as a boost for businesses, residents and visitors alike.
“This scheme offering free Wi-Fi in key public areas confirms our commitment to being at the forefront of the digital revolution,” he said.
Gowex chief executive Jenaro Garcia added: “We are extremely proud that Newcastle and Gateshead have trusted Gowex to offer to all their citizens and visitors the best free Wi-Fi service in order to transform them into wireless smart cities.
“These contracts create a platform for Gowex growth in the UK as well as in the rest of the world.”