The Mirror News

Council considers free public Wi-Fi

SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council is considering introducing a free public Wi-Fi service to the main towns of the shire.

Councillors Andrew McEwen and Don Hill suggested the idea to last week’s council meeting, and the motion was adopted with alacrity in a unanimous vote of Council.

Cr McEwen said that it would be a progressive move for the shire and one which could help improve a local economy which is going through hard times because of the downturn in the dairy industry.

He said that many towns in South Gippsland, Leongatha in particular, have vacant shops and are suffering a downturn because of the impact of reduced milk prices to the dairying community.

“Retail precincts in rural areas are under increased competition from internet shopping. This is anticipated to continue to grow over the next decade. Retail experts say that shopping precincts need to be clear about their vision, be digitally connected and offer destination experiences that are contemporary to attract people,” said Cr McEwen.

Free Wi-Fi, he said, is already proving a boon in Meeniyan, where it was introduced by the Meeniyan Progress Association and Meeniyan Traders under the leadership of Richard Powell.

“When people break their journey they usually explore the town, have a coffee and food and use its services. Sixty-five per cent of people already use smart devices (iPhones, iPads, tablets) to access information for shopping and tourist information,” said Cr McEwen.

“Meeniyan Wi-Fi has recorded some 31,000 hits in the past 20 months. People seek out free Wi-Fi hot spots to access the internet.”.

“I think this is a great initiative,” said Cr Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks, adding that any investigation should ensure that there would be no wastage of spending via duplication of services, via Telstra Air booths, for example.

Cr Jim Fawcett also welcomed the motion, adding the caution that Council should provide the initial capital but the ongoing costs for a Wi-Fi service should be paid by the major beneficiaries i.e. the businesses in each town.

Cr Mohya Davies said that as the owner of an accommodation business she appreciated the importance tourists place on access to free Wi-Fi. She added that it would be up to the new council elected at the end of this year to consider the shire officers’ report on the feasibility of free Wi-Fi.

Council voted to receive a report from shire officers in the December meeting that details the costs and benefits of introducing a free Wi-Fi service to the main service and tourist towns of South Gippsland


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