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Newcastle City Council has launched free public Wi-Fi services in 69 of its properties with support from the Go Digital Newcastle programme, backed by the government’s Superconnected Cities scheme and BT.
The launch builds on a wider £30m initiative, first announced in October 2014, to provide Wi-Fi for free in public buildings in a number of UK cities, with a number of notable sites including the Brighton Pavillion and the British Museum among those to receive the service.
Newcastle residents will now be able to use their mobile devices to access the internet free of charge at the Civic Centre, Newcastle City Council’s customer services centres, Your Homes Newcastle centres, and libraries and museums.
The council estimates that collectively 3.7 million people visit its public buildings every year, and said the addition of free Wi-Fi would be a massive boost to local connectivity.
“Newcastle has entered the super-league when it comes to providing Wi-Fi to our residents, business people and visitors,” said deputy council leader Joyce McCarty.
“The council, together with the wider public sector, is moving an increasing number of services online,” she added. “This free-to-access public Wi-Fi service, alongside the other elements of the Go Digital Newcastle programme, is working to ensure that residents, businesses and visitors are able to access Wi-Fi in a choice of locations so they are not disadvantaged by these changes.”
As previously reported, Newcastle Council has been working with its neighbours in Gateshead to deploy outdoor wireless hotspots through smart city supplier Gowex, using funding from Go Digital Newcastle, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and the European Regional Development Fund.
This project has already established 30 hotspots around Newcastle and Gateshead, with 41 more still in the planning stage, offering coverage along main pedestrian routes in the city centre, along the Tyne, and in Gateshead town centre.
The council’s service, which will be installed, run and supported by BT, will be based on fast dual-band Wi-Fi standards with no restriction on usage. It will also include filters to exclude inappropriate content.
BT north-east regional partnership director Simon Roberson commented: “Increasingly we have a need and desire to be constantly connected to the online world.
“With online messaging apps people can stay in contact with friends or families, with those on ‘pay as you go’ no longer worrying about running out of credit. And with the new phone charging lockers in Eldon Square, even keeping mobiles charged is no longer a problem.”