Wednesday, April 13, 2022

News: Rotherham town centre Wi-Fi plans reset


Rotherham Council has pulled the plug on a plan to offer free Wi-Fi across the town centre.

Rothbiz reported in 2018 that a scheme was being developed for free Wi-Fi in the main town centre shopping district and public open spaces such as Clifton Park.

The scheme had been designed to include no or minimal upfront or ongoing investment by the authority. A concession contract would see a private company install superfast and ultrafast broadband equipment in exchange for providing the bidder with exclusive use of council-owned street lights and street furniture for wireless communications.

However, a contractor could not be secured.

Since 2018 telecoms giant, BT, has replaced its traditional phone boxes in the town centre with new "InLinks" - fully-accessible community structures that can provide free ultrafast Wi-Fi, free UK landline and mobile calls and free mobile device charging.

An update to the Council's cabinet last month said that "a contract was tendered in December 2019 and a chosen supplier identified in January 2020. However, by November 2020, the Council had been unable to progress the formal award and enter into contract with the chosen supplier due to changes within the company and a general lack of engagement from them in progressing the contract award. As such the Council took the decision to withdraw the award and abandon the procurement."

Alternative options had been investigated by the Council and a number of discussions had taken place with commercial organisations and telecommunication providers already working with the Council. Since the Council originally agreed to the project, the landscape had changed and other Councils were facing difficulties with similar schemes in that concessionary contracts were not achieving the level of projected income for the chosen supplier to make them viable. This had been attributed to the communications market reducing the cost of personal data and more town centre businesses offering free Wi-Fi to customers.

The Council is now instead going to explore the potential to utilise its own building assets to extend the current corporately managed free public Wi-Fi network to key areas of the public realm within Rotherham town centre.

The council's cabinet has also agreed to the provision of free public Wi-Fi in the new town centre library and markets development.

Cllr. Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, said: "It’s a shame, I suppose, that the initial plans four years ago didn’t come through in the way that we had hoped. I think we got to that at the wrong moment in time. We do provide lots of free Wi-Fi, at libraries, the museum, Riverside House, etc, and this seems a practical, logical extension of that."

Images: Google Maps


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