Page last updated at 11:45 GMT, Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Free public Wi-Fi scheme for town

Wireless internet
Users could pay for upgrades to 20Mb at lower than current prices

A major Wiltshire town is to become the first in the UK to offer free public wireless internet access to its entire population, it was claimed.

Swindon Borough Council plan for all 186,000 citizens to have blanket "Wi-Fi mesh" coverage by April 2010.

Line rental will be free, and there will be no connection charge, say council officials.

Wireless internet allows computer users to access the internet without the need for wired connection to phone lines.

'Much cheaper'

Subscribers to the service - to be called Signal - will have limited access but could pay for 20Mb upgrades.

This fee would be "significantly less" than current broadband suppliers, scheme bosses estimate.

The £1m project will be run by Digital City UK Ltd, in which Swindon Borough Council has a 35% share.

Some 1,400 secure access points will be fitted around Swindon, similar to those used in homes "but with a much higher performance," is is claimed.

'UK roll out'

If successful, there is an intention of working on similar roll-outs of the technology in other towns and cities across the UK.

Swindon Borough Council leader Rod Bluh said: "This is a truly ground-breaking partnership which will have real benefits for everyone living in Swindon.

"We're doing it, we've done it, and we're the first to do it."

The service will also have the potential to provide free internet phone-calls and remote medical consultations.

Anti-virus software, and popular services offered by Microsoft and Google will all be on the network.

Other UK cities have had trials of the schemes, but this is the first time an entire town area will be covered by council-backed public Wi-Fi.

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