VISITORS and residents of Newcastle and Gateshead can now connect to free outdoor WiFi, thanks to GoDigital_WiFi.
In a partnership between Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council, as part of the Go Digital Newcastle programme, BT is providing an outdoor WiFi service in key pedestrian routes in Newcastle city centre, Gateshead town centre and both sides of the Quayside.
The outdoor service is an extension of the free WiFi that was launched last year in many public buildings across Newcastle, including the Civic Centre, Newcastle City Council customer service centres, Your Homes Newcastle centres, libraries and museums.
Providing free access to WiFi has benefits for visitors, workers and residents by allowing people to look up information, book tickets, check their emails, search for jobs and many more, all whilst on the move.
Cllr Joyce McCarty, Deputy Leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “We’re delighted that this next phase of providing WiFi to our residents, business people and visitors is now complete.
“Newcastle can now proudly say that it has joined the super-league of connectivity.
“The Go Digital Newcastle project has been rolling out superfast broadband across the city, and together with that, this further investment means we have a digital infrastructure that puts us well ahead of many other cities in the world.”
The council and the wider public sector are moving an increasing number of services online, and Cllr McCarty said the free public WiFi is making sure residents, businesses and visitors can take advantage of the changes.
“Alongside the other elements of the Go Digital Newcastle programme, public WiFi is working to ensure that people in our city can get the best out of our increasingly digital world,” she said.
The outdoor WiFi service, awarded in partnership with Gateshead Council, is being deployed using a mix of BT telephone kiosks, lampposts and CCTV columns.
Cllr Gary Haley, Cabinet Member for Economy at Gateshead Council, said: “This is great news for residents and visitors to Gateshead, who can now get free access to the Internet whilst they are on the move.
“This exciting new scheme will not only allow residents to access their favourite websites, apps and public services while they are out and about, but it will also make the area an even more attractive place to visit, which in turn, should bring increased trade for local businesses.”
The concession contract with BT is for 10 years at no cost to the councils, who will receive an initial upfront rental fee and annual rent from BT for the use of its street furniture. The annual income is based on a revenue share with BT.
Under the fully managed service contract, BT will install and operate the service and provide a 24/7 support desk for users via a free 0800 telephone number.
The services are based on fast dual-band WiFi standards with no restriction on the length of time users can browse the internet, and with a block on inappropriate content, the service will be safe and family friendly for all users.
Simon Roberson, BT’s regional partnership director for the North East, said: "Connecting people is at the heart of what we do and these days it is more important than ever before to keep people connected while they’re on the move.
“People living and working in Newcastle, as well as visitors to the city, can now shop, check travel arrangements, social network and enjoy a variety of online applications when out and about, completely free of charge and without using up their data allowance.”
The Go Digital project is funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as part of the Government’s UK-wide Super Connected Cities programme.
Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Matt Hancock, said: “Our investment in the Go Digital Newcastle programme means people can now access free WiFi in at even more outdoor locations in Newcastle and Gateshead. With more and more people needing to connect on the go, this project is helping make sure the city is properly equipped for the digital age.”
*Find out more WiFi and to see our indoor WiFi hotspots, visit www.godigitalnewcastle.co.uk/wifi