FISH Creek central business district’s keenly-anticipated free public Wi-Fi is up and running at last, at least in part, with a good signal available within a 40- to 50-metre radius of the Fish Creek Memorial Hall in Falls Road.
Users located within this area may now find “Free Fishy Wi-Fi” in their networks or connections setting on their mobile telephone or device and log in for 30-minute sessions at no charge using a unique access code.
The current access code is available from local shops and businesses displaying the eye-catching green-and-white “Fish Creek free Wi-Fi access code Available here!” card in their front windows.
The Fish Creek Tea Cosy Festival committee, which is behind the free Wi-Fi network, hopes the signal will be extended, as originally planned, to the rest of the town’s CBD towards Easter.
The committee was first aiming to have free W-Fi in service by Christmas 2020.
Festival committee president Marge Arnup said the Wi-Fi project had run into a series of unexpected hurdles that all had to dealt with, like needing permission to put transmission equipment on the heritage-listed Memorial Hall, technicians falling ill, and COVID-19 lockdowns, among others.
“The latest delay has been caused, would you believe, by corellas!” she said.
“We’ve had trouble with corellas sitting on the aerials of some of the transmitters around the town and knocking them out of position so they’re not getting the strength of signal that they should.
“Without the aerials in the right place, the signal is significantly reduced, and the committee has left no stone unturned in talking to people who know corellas and finding out what we can do to get around them without doing any harm,” Marge said.
“A simple solution has just been devised and involves using a glue heat gun to lock the aerials into the right place without affecting their efficiency or their appearance,” she said.
“Now we’re waiting for our technician to come back and readjust the transmitters and to glue the aerials, and then we’ll really be getting somewhere!”
The Memorial Hall houses the National Broadband Network (NBN) connection and an aerial and is the main hub of the free Wi-Fi service.
Relay transmitters and their aerials have already been placed on the Fish Creek CFA Station, the Fish Creek Hotel and the Dorling family’s trucking business shed.
Marge said the corellas seemed to like roosting on the aerials on the Memorial Hall and Dorling’s shed, but aren’t so interested in the aerial on the pub and they avoid the aerial on the CFA station altogether because it’s mounted on the top of a pole.
An extra transmitter and aerial will be put on the roof of the Alison Lester Gallery, diagonally opposite the pub, too.
The Fish Creek Tea Cosy Festival committee embarked on setting up free Wi-Fi network throughout the CBD from May last year after the town’s notoriously unreliable mobile reception caused the 2020 Festival’s launch ceremony livestream to fail.
Marge Arnup said the COVID-19 pandemic had forced organisers to figure out how to run the whole 2020 Festival remotely, with digital photographs of entries, online judging, and new virtual competitions.
With planning help and a $1000 COVID-19 Community Support Grant from the South Gippsland Shire, free data from Morwell internet service provider Aussie Broadband, and guidance from Meeniyan free Wi-Fi hub advisor Richard Powell, the Fish Creek Wi-Fi project began.
“At least the free Wi-Fi is working around the Memorial Hall, but not under the verandahs of the buildings along Falls Road because the signal won’t go through the metal,” Marge said.
“The network is operating well inside the Hall though and now people can log on to the free Wi-Fi and run Zoom meetings and livestream events.
“The user guidelines for the Free Fishy Wi-Fi come up when people go to log in with their access code.
“Each transmitter has a range of about 180 metres that intersect to provide a pretty even coverage across the main part of Fish Creek, from the Hall to the pub, across to the Community Garden, and along the Great Southern Rail Trail a little way,” she said.
“We’re so looking forward to seeing the whole network working as it should!”