02 June 2009 – London, UK: Community Wi-Fi broadband networks are the solution to the government’s Broadband For All scheme, according to Top 10 Broadband.
The government faces significant obstacles in fulfilling its aim of every household having access to a broadband connection of at least 2Mb by 2012 as part of its Digital Britain project. Chief among these is the expense of the scheme, with Whitehall set to shoulder £750 million of the estimated £2.5 billion cost.
However, as is taking place in the London borough of Islington, a cost-effective solution for helping broadband have-nots in urban areas is at hand in the form of a council-sponsored community Wi-Fi scheme.
Research conducted by Top 10 Broadband shows that when employed in high density urban areas, a mast-based wireless network is much cheaper to implement than other broadband networks. Furthermore, Wi-Fi does not necessitate disruption to transport networks that the underground installation of fibre-optic cables and traditional ADSL broadband networks require.
Islington Council project manager Andrew Barker said: "Providing free external internet access along what's now known as the Tech Mile has been a huge success for Islington Council.
"That's why we've continued to build on the project and are now targeting service delivery into the homes of social housing residents using broadband over powerline.
"We've fielded amazing feedback from residents who have already benefited from free broadband access in their home and, as a result, we aim to deliver the service to an increasing number of targeted residents."
Jessica McArdle, marketing manager at Top 10 Broadband, said: “It seems ludicrous that in an age of mobile technology we’re contemplating digging up roads at huge expense and inconvenience to install networks when a cheaper solution may be at hand.
“Wi-Fi is cheap, has been shown to be a proven technology and is perfect for ensuring universal access to broadband in cities.”
Council-sponsored broadband schemes can also help to tackle the Digital Divide that means that millions of broadband have-nots in the UK’s poorest cities are at an economic disadvantage.
The viability of such projects is evident in the success of the Technology Mile in Islington. Established and funded by the forward-thinking council five years ago, the scheme serves 3,000 of the area’s least well-off consumers in social housing on the Ashby House and the Marquess estates. Currently, the scheme has 4,000 registered users, and records some 20,000 unique sessions per month.
Ms McArdle continued: “Islington’s scheme was the first of its kind in the country. But after its success it’s staggering that no other London council has followed suit, especially since Wi-Fi community networks could be the social glue that keeps under-pressure communities together.”
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