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Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council have extended an existing public Wi-Fi network beyond key public buildings and council facilities to the streets of Tyneside, enabling residents and visitors to access high speed connectivity while moving around the area.
With financial support from the European Union (EU), the government’s Superconnected Cities programme, and operator BT, the two councils first clubbed together to offer free wireless broadband in libraries, museums and council facilities in October 2015.
The scheme, Go Digital Wi-Fi, will be extended for 10 years through a concession contract with BT, which means there will be no charge to the councils, which will receive upfront and annual rental fees from BT for allowing it to use lampposts and CCTV columns to deploy access points.
BT has also committed to provide a managed service helpdesk for users via a free 0800 telephone service.
“The Go Digital Newcastle project has been rolling out superfast broadband across the city and, together with that, this further investment means we have a digital infrastructure that puts us well ahead of many other cities in the world,” said Newcastle City Council deputy leader Joyce McCarty.
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The enhanced network will cover key pedestrian routes in the centres of Newcastle and Gateshead, as well as both sides of the Quayside.
McCarty said that as Newcastle Council moved more of its public-facing services online, free public Wi-Fi would help ensure that users of these services could access them more easily, as well as offering wider benefits such as allowing people to look up local information, book tickets for events, and so on.
Gary Haley, Gateshead Council cabinet member for economy, added: “This exciting new scheme will not only allow residents to access their favourite websites, apps and public services while they are out and about, but it will also make the area an even more attractive place to visit, which in turn, should bring increased trade for local businesses.”
Digital and culture minister Matt Hancock said: “Our investment in the Go Digital Newcastle programme means people can access free Wi-Fi at even more outdoor locations in Newcastle and Gateshead. With more and more people needing to connect on the go, this project is helping make sure the city is properly equipped for the digital age.”