Page last updated at 08:15 GMT, Thursday, 17 December 2009

UK community groups win free wi-fi

A vicar with a laptop
Churches were among 500 entries to the competition

Mother and toddler groups, youth clubs and unemployment centres are among the winners of a competition offering free wi-fi to remote areas.

From the Orkney Islands to southern Cornwall, 46 communities have been chosen to receive free wi-fi for a minimum of three years.

The competition was launched by wi-fi hotspot firm Freerunner.

The firm uses a combination of broadband, satellite and 3G to connect remote communities.

The connections will be paid for by a combination of advertisements and corporate sponsorship.

Rural town Stromness in Orkney is a typical winner.

The pier is a gathering point for both tourists and locals and having wi-fi installed will benefit a range of groups including local artists, the Ladies Lifeboat Guild and the Fisherman's Co-operative.

Other winners include a church in the Midlands which is working with refugees and asylum seekers, a community centre in Stirling running a group for mothers and toddlers and a youth club in Devon.

"The Freerunner mission is to give everyone free access to fast wi-fi whether you are in a coffee shop in the West End of London or a community centre in the suburbs of Newcastle," said chief executive Owen Geddes.

"It is incredible to think that a small piece of relatively low cost technology is going to fundamentally change nearly 50 communities across the UK," he said.

Broadband supplier BE is the first sponsor to the scheme and will roll out free broadband to those with no connection.

"We agree that wi-fi should be more widely available," said Tom Williams, head of operations at BE Broadband.

Ian Johnson is a project leader for the Black Country Learning Academy which is among the winners.

"Many people in our area have never been online and know little about IT. Wi-fi means we can set up new internet-enabled computers allowing us to run more, improving the employment prospects of people across the region."

The UK government has pledged to provide broadband running at a minimum speed of 2Mbps (megabits per second) to all homes by 2012.

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