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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 September, 2003, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
Libraries could get wireless web
People in library
The search for knowledge in libraries going hi-tech
Surfing the internet over the airwaves could soon be available in your local public library.

Wireless, high-speed broadband net access in libraries is one of the ideas put forward by Stephen Timms, the UK E-commerce minister.

The minister outlined his vision of Britain's broadband future to industry experts meeting in London this week.

He said the government's approach was to develop the most competitive broadband market amongst G7 nations.


Among the "immense opportunities" broadband offers people is rich content like education and information, Mr Timms said, which he wants to be widely available to all.

As broadband rolls out across the UK, high-quality material from the public and private sectors, like streaming medical or educational videos, could be accessed by people using wi-fi in places like public libraries.

Man using wi-fi laptop
Wi-fi technology lets you surf the net anywhere
"I want to see every public library in the UK have a wi-fi hotspot", he said.

Wi-fi or wireless networks allow people with laptops and handheld computers to surf the internet or send and receive data at broadband speeds, provided they have the right wireless equipment.

At wi-fi hotspots, people can log on to these networks, like restaurants, libraries, and schools, without having to plug a cable into a computer.

In June, the government sold 15 regional licenses to run fixed-point wireless networks around large areas of the country.

The idea that people might be able to take more than their overdue book down to the library may excite those with laptops and handheld devices like PDAs.

It could mean an end to queuing to use a library computer hooked up to the net.

'Content creativity'

Mr Timms heaped praise on e-government initiatives as well as community projects which have driven the government's goals of getting broadband roll-out in Britain.

Businesses, especially small and medium enterprises, the public sector as well as individual consumers all have an important role to play developing broadband.

But what was emphasised by Mr Timms was that broadband's future was "all about content" and outlined some potential areas of content creativity.

These included initiatives to encourage the collaboration of creative industries to produce compelling content for people on a high speed connection.

The minister said out of the 6 billion earmarked for e-government over the next three years, 1 billion of that would be pushed into ensuring Britons have increased broadband connectivity, particularly in rural areas.

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