Public Wi-Fi proves unpopular

Tuesday February 26th 2019

East Lothian Council

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

The idea of public Wi-Fi failed to gain support when it was offered as a way to improve town centres in East Lothian.

A report to East Lothian Council revealed that moves to increase access to the free service did not win favour with residents, who questioned the point of it.

Despite the lack of support, council officers said they are pushing ahead with their strategy to introduce it across towns in the county.

The report into the local authority’s town centre strategy revealed the results of public consultations over a range of actions proposed within the communities.

It said: “For each town centre there was overall support for all the proposed actions, with the exception of the introduction of public Wi-Fi in each town centre, except Haddington which already has public Wi-Fi.”

In Musselburgh, two-thirds of respondent disagreed with a proposal to introduce it in the town centre, with less than a third agreeing with it in Tranent.

The reaction was similar in Prestonpans and North Berwick, while Dunbar saw the least support, with only one in five backing it.

In the majority of towns, the most support was to use statutory action to force private owners of buildings in multiple ownership to have external repairs carried out.

There was also support for bringing old buildings back into reuse.

Among comments about public Wi-Fi relayed to councillors at a meeting in Haddington, one person said: “I really find it surprising that town Wi-Fi has been identified as a possible benefit for the town centre. With excellent 4G coverage in the town, this would perhaps be more suited at the end of the list of improvements.”

Another added: “I don’t think lack of public Wi-Fi is an issue with 4G cover widely available.”

However, the council responded: “The council notes that even with 100 per cent superfast broadband coverage [the same goes for 4G/5G], affordability will remain a significant challenge. Consequently, there will still be a requirement for free Wi-Fi internet access across our communities.”

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