Community champions are celebrating after a Free Community Wifi scheme was rolled out to cover 100 percent of Marlborough town centre.
The scheme allows anyone with a wifi-enabled device to log on to the internet for 20 minutes at a time, as often as they like, for no charge – perfect for casual users who want to check emails, log on to their social media channels, or access websites while they enjoy a coffee or do some shopping.
Meanwhile, regular users who want an uninterrupted service can pay £10 a year for always-on wifi, for two devices.
What’s more, the entire scheme has been delivered for less than £10,000 – far less than similar market town schemes that have cost ten times that amount.
Now more businesses are needed to host the small devices that will make the facility more robust and reliable.
The scheme was funded mainly by grants from Wiltshire Council’s Marlborough Area Board, with contributions from individual business owners, and was delivered by Marlborough Area Development Trust.
Board member Bob Holman said: “Visitors to the town, whether they are tourists, or locals popping in to shop and do business, can benefit from free wifi, and that’s a terrific selling point for Marlborough.
“And the scheme has allowed us to address the lack of a Tourist Information Centre by allowing us to provide information and walking tours through a dedicated website – www.visitmarlborough.org
“But there are a host of benefits to the business community that we are keen to explore.
“For instance, we could launch an e-commerce site for Marlborough retailers, potentially including a Click and Collect service to allow customers to pick up purchased goods out of hours.
“We could also potentially use the wifi to extend the town’s CCTV provision, with cameras both inside and outside premises, saving business owners tens of thousands of pounds when compared against commercially available schemes, and providing an accessible system allowing business owners to keep an eye on their premises – day or night – via their smart phone.”
The system works by business owners donating a fraction of their wifi bandwidth to the scheme by means of a ‘node’. There are currently 37 nodes in the town, which relay and boost the Free cCommunity Wifi signal around the town.
The nodes offer added security implications to business owners: they also allow businesses to offer wifi to visitors to their premises, without the need to give them access to their company broadband router.
The nodes also have built-in firewalls and content filtering, which means certain websites – for instance sites with adult content, or which encourage or enable piracy – are blocked to users of the community wifi scheme.
Nodes are located along the length of High Street and its environs, including Hughenden Yard and Hillier’s Yard. Marlborough Area Development Trust also operates small, local free wifi schemes in Ramsbury, Aldbourne, Avebury and Lockeridge.
The next stage of the Marlborough scheme is to install nodes in more business premises to improve the robustness and reliability of the scheme. The Development Trust is therefore looking for more local business owners to come forward and help support the scheme – please contact Bob Holman at email@example.com or on 01672 890222.