A HUB supplying free WiFi throughout Fish Creek’s central business district will be “all up by Christmas”, according to Fish Creek Tea Cosy Festival Committee president Marge Arnup and technologically minded committee member Tess Deyl.
“WiFi will soon be all a goer in Fishy with our own little local network!” Marge and Tess said.
“We’re in love with Aussie Broadband, the Morwell-based internet service provider, which has agreed to give us free data.
“We’re very grateful, too, for the $1000 COVID-19 Community Support Grant from the South Gippsland Shire Council, which will go towards buying the transmission equipment we need,” they said.
“We also appreciate all the help and information we’ve received from Meeniyan community member Richard Powell who was responsible for setting up Meeniyan township’s free WiFi service several years ago.”
The main WiFi hub will be based at the Fish Creek Memorial Hall in Falls Road where the National Broadband Network (NBN) will be connected, with relay transmitters at the Fish Creek CFA Station and the Fish Creek Hotel.
“Each transmitter creates about 180 metres of coverage and the three of them working together will produce three circular signals that intersect like a Venn diagram,” Marge said.
“People who want to use the free WiFi will have to call into one of the participating shops or businesses in Fish Creek to get a code so they can access what we’re anticipating will be 30-minute-or-so blocks.”
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted the Fish Creek Tea Cosy Festival committee to run the 2020 event online via digital photographs posted on Facebook and Instagram.
Mobile telephone and internet service at Fish Creek has always been unreliable, and it was the failure of the 2020 Tea Cosy Festival launch ceremony’s live feed in May that prompted the committee to investigate how to get a WiFi hub.
“The committee had already thought about the same issue a couple of years ago and the members reckoned it was a good project but there wasn’t quite the interest in the community at that time,” Marge said.
“However, things have changed a lot since then and technology has come along so far, and now good connectivity is an expectation wherever people go,” she said.
“It’s not just Fish Creek, it’s everywhere that both locals and visitors, in particular the international ones, want to access instant messaging, live video, streaming …
“The various community activities held at the Fish Creek hall may benefit from WiFi, and we’ll be able to live stream all sorts of events, such as funerals, performances, the primary school concert, even the Fish Creek Tea Cosy Festival!”
Marge said that when the committee started researching how to go about obtaining a WiFi hub for Fish Creek, they looked at Meeniyan as “the obvious example of the type of similar service that we wanted.
“We met with Richard Powell and, with his previous experience as an electronics engineer and his involvement with Meeniyan’s town WiFi, he helped us to identify the best site and what was needed in terms of equipment,” she said.
“We also approached a number of internet service providers to find out what they could offer, though some of those didn’t even respond.
“I had seen on Aussie Broadband’s website that they had won awards and undertook sponsorships, and that they had what could be called a social enterprises division,” Marge said.
“I spoke to an Aussie Broadband staff member about whether free data could be made available and was told that while they had never done such a thing before, ‘do fill in a sponsorship application form and we’ll get back to you’ and they did!”
Marge said the Tea Cosy Festival committee sent Richard’s final recommendations on the most suitable equipment and set-up arrangements for the Fish Creek WiFi to the NBN, Aussie Broadband and the shire.
“All three organisations agreed that Richard’s system would work and that it was simple and cost-effective,” she said.
“We’re going to host a tea party, a virtual one if we must, to launch the Fish Creek CBD WiFi network some time in December; there’s going to be really exciting times ahead for everyone who lives and works in Fish Creek and who comes to visit!”