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Free WiFi for all as councils push for job creation

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Adelaide Lord Mayor Martin Haese is spearheading a push to roll out free WiFi internet on “every main street” in South Australia, as part of a local government agenda to stimulate job creation.

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Haese told a recent gathering of the Local Government Association that councils should consider options “to work with State Government to put free WiFi in every single council area and on every main street”.

The Lord Mayor was updating the findings of an employment summit he convened in August, aimed at workshopping ways local government could help generate jobs.

One “tangible outcome” agreed to was “investigating rolling out free WiFi in every main street in South Australia, where possible”.

It follows the rollout of a $1.5 million free wireless internet network across public spaces in Adelaide’s CBD and North Adelaide last year. The joint initiative of the State Government, the Adelaide City Council and Internode was spruiked at its launch as the largest public network in Australia, with up to 5000 users at any one time.

But IT worker Sree Nathan – who was touted as a contender for the casual City Council vacancy to replace Canberra-bound Greens member Robert Simms – warns any broader rollout should heed the lessons of the city’s WiFi experiment.

“The problem with the city WiFi is it’s actually more of a nuisance…you have to actually switch off your WiFi sometimes because it makes it so slow,” he said.

He said public wireless access was “about making sure the infrastructure can cope with the number of people connecting”, warning that a statewide rollout could be prohibitively expensive and should be done in partnership with the private sector.

“It’s a great idea, but the infrastructure should match the technology,” he said.

“If you’re having connectivity issues in the main retail precinct, on the Mall and Rundle Street, then there’s work that needs to be done.”

Nathan told InDaily he had opted against running for the council seat, saying: “At this point, I don’t have the time to commit to a campaign.”

A Weatherill Government spokesman told InDaily: “The State Government is closely monitoring the CBD WiFi service and will take on board any proposals for similar services in other parts of Adelaide as part of that.”

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