Friday 17 November 2017 09:10:47 PM

Wi-Fi On Way to Three Towns in Down District
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A new Wi-Fi system may soon be launched in the main towns in Down District.

The high-tech development in the local town centres of Ballynahinch, Downpatrick and Newcastle is a pilot project which will last up to March 2015 initially.  It is proposed that anyone with a Wi-Fi enabled device, such as a laptop or smart phone, would be able to connect to the internet for free for short periods of time to allow internet browsing and email access.

Free Wi-Fi coming to centres in Downpatrick, Ballynahinch and Newcastle.

Free Wi-Fi coming to centres in Downpatrick, Ballynahinch and Newcastle.

A Down District Council official said: “The Wi-Fi will provide free controlled access to the internet for all those visiting the town centres, with access to inappropriate web sites blocked through a content filtering mechanism and download limits enforced.  Users would need to register initially to use the network and they would need to agree to the terms and conditions which would include a fair usage policy.  Follow up usage would be through a simple log on process rather than re-registration.

“The Department for Social Development has agreed to fund the installation of this free Wi-Fi system in each of Down district’s three main towns, Ballynahinch, Downpatrick and Newcastle, with the ongoing maintenance and hosting costs to be covered by Down District Council.

“The system which will be installed by WIFI Spark and will cover the main retail and tourist areas of the 3 main towns, through a series of access points located across the town centres.  It is expected to have the access points installed by the end of March 2013, with the system going live to the public in mid-April following a series of tests.”

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McGrath Welcomes New Wave of Technology To District

The SDLP’s Councillor Colin McGrath said: “Free Wi-Fi in Town Centres will be good for the whole of the local area.
‘I  welcome this news that council is to pursue free wifi provision in the districts three main towns as good for business.
 
“Free wifi will make our district’s towns more appealing to people to come and visit and the use of targeted advertising could open up ways of reaching out to new customers.
“Most people have smartphones nowadays and the thirst for wi-fi is never-ending and it does irritate people to have to use the old mobile phone based internet connectivity.
“With this investment people can get access to the internet via phones, tablets and laptops and will mean our towns will be at the leading edge of internet connectivity – something which will surely place us at an advantage.
“I therefore welcome this initiative and hope that the wifi connections can be implemented quickly and people get to use the full potential of the internet here in our district’s towns.”

The Features of the Proposed WIFI

·*  Controlled Bandwidth (to prevent users from monopolising all the bandwidth e.g. downloading  movies)
*  Content monitoring (prevents access to inappropriate web sites)
*  24/7 helpdesk
*  Rapid response times to outage or other network issues
*  Comprehensive usage statistics (no. of log-ins, areas of use, timing, sites visited) to guide future marketing and monitor footfall
*  Management of Introductory Page – Utilising the DDC brand and associated brands as required
*  Ensure there are no security threats to the existing network

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Potential Benefits to Local Economy

There are many benefits to the local community and economy.
*  Retail Development: Retailers can publish promotions for local shoppers.  Both national and local retailers benefit from technology that attracts and retains new customers.  Free Town Centre Wi-Fi offers a unique selling point for retailers.  Footfall can be increased with mobile vouchers for shops, cafés, hotels or restaurants.
*  Tourism: Visitors can be attracted to tourist, cultural and entertainment venues. Commercial opportunities will arise through advertising promotions and events. Interactive tour guides can enhance visitor experience and encourage more visitors.
*  Economic Development and Regeneration: A modern and flexible infrastructure supports modern businesses.  It sends a positive signal to inward investors that could support training, education and other community services.
*  Social and Digital Inclusion: Free Wi-Fi could be a channel for digitally excluded communities that do not have the internet in their homes.  Many younger members of this group have smartphones with a Wi-Fi capability (projected 75% by 2014).  Community engagement becomes possible through free access to this proposed portal.

Potential Benefits to Down District Council

In addition to the benefits to the local economy, the use of free Wi-FI can offer a channel shift of Council services. Digitally and social excluded people are often the greatest users of council services.  Easy access to council content and information will help to bridge the “digital divide”, shifting some service delivery to more efficient channels.

Official UK government figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in September 2011 help prove this too:

Reasons for using the Internet to interact with public authorities, UK, 2011
 Per cent
Men
Women
All
Obtaining information from public authorities
35
29
32
Downloading official forms
30
22
26
Submitting completed forms
31
23
27
Other services
51
60
56