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Free public Wi-Fi to be rolled-out across the Highlands

16th August 2017

Members have today approved proposals to expand the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal funded free open public Wi-Fi system to 14 towns across the Highland.

Towns recommended for the free Wi-Fi programme are Alness, Aviemore, Dingwall, Dornoch, Drumnadrochit, Fort Augustus, Fort William, Invergordon, Nairn, Portree, Tain, Thurso, Ullapool and Wick.

Other locations are being considered for a later phase of the project and these will be discussed with ward members.

The City Wi-Fi project, led by the Council and funded by the Inverness and Highlands City Region Deal, aims to create a free open public Wi-Fi system across the Highlands for visitors and residents. By being available 24/7, 365 days per year, it aims to stimulate economic growth and increase digital inclusion.

Increasingly such digital connectivity is seen as essential if the Highlands are to be innovative and keep their competitive place in the tourism market. The project also offers the opportunity to gather data about local users and tourist activity, and the creation of a wireless infrastructure in a town centre allows other innovative technology, such as smart traffic management technology to be utilised.

The first phase of the Inverness City Wi-Fi project, branded Ness Wi-Fi, is providing fast internet coverage in a pilot area including the Victorian Market, Falcon Square and surrounding streets. The system is providing reliable fast internet usage to users, whilst being family friendly and content filtered with average number of between 300 - 500 users per day.

Phase 2 of the project is currently being installed to roll out the coverage across the city centre and along the river to Eden Court, the Northern Meeting Park and Ardross Street Coach Drop off.

Extending the free wifi to towns across the Highlands was an ambition of the project team from the start. Fourteen other town centres have now been identified for funding for free Wi-Fi on the basis of a wide range of criteria with a focus on the anticipated benefits to tourism and local economy. Available digital infrastructure was the final deciding factor, with the need to utilise areas with existing and appropriate digital infrastructure.

The project will commence in October and take a few months to complete. Each of the 14 sites will be prioritised in order of available infrastructure.

Councillor Allan Henderson, Chair of the Places Committee said: "It has always been an ambition since the start of the City Wi-Fi project to extend free Wi-Fi across Highland. I am sure that people across the Highlands will whole-heartedly welcome this initiative which is designed to bring a fantastic boost to these areas and will help to regenerate town centre growth.

"This really demonstrates the City-Region Deal delivering for communities across the Highlands."

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