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Swindon could become the first town in the UK to offer free internet access to all its residents, under ambitious new plans.

Working alongside private sector technology firm aQovia, Swindon Borough Council plans to install a Wi-Fi wireless mesh to cover the whole area.

The council says the project will provide a range of services and applications for the whole community, including free internet connections, line rentals and connection charges, and borough-wide online movement.

Free usage will be limited, with charges applicable for households and businesses wishing to access 20Mb upgrades, while visitors to Swindon will be able to plug into the network on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Rod Bluh, Swindon Borough Council Leader, described the partnership agreement as "truly groundbreaking", saying it will have "real benefits" for everyone living in the town.

He added: "Not only will residents in the borough be able to access the internet for free, the council and its partners will be able to use the technology to provide cutting edge services to the areas or individuals who need them."

Earlier this week, Plymouth's Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive David Parlby warned that the city will be left behind if it does not upgrade its broadband infrastructure.

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