Ballarat to get free public wi-fi by the end of the year 

BALLARAT’S CBD and tourism hotspots are set to get free public wi-fi by the end of the year, with the state government calling for expressions of interest to deliver the service.

Premier Denis Napthine announced the free wi-fi initiative and said it would boost productivity, service delivery and quality of life for residents and visitors to Ballarat. 

He said it would also help draw more businesses and entrepreneurs to regional Victoria. 

“The initiative aims to pilot fast, reliable and free wi-fi services in central Ballarat, in and around publicly owned infrastructure, including public transport hubs and tourist attractions for the next three to five years,” Dr Napthine said.

The state government has said it does not have a cost for the service yet because it is still seeking a provider, but has stressed said there would be no ongoing cost to government or local councils.

Dr Napthine said the state government would potentially provide initial investment to the provider to help establish the infrastructure.

“Government investment could include direct grants or in-kind contributions like advertising, sponsorship and priority access to public infrastructure and facilities,” he said.

Internet Society of Australia vice-president George Fong said there were many reasons why free wi-fi was a good idea in Ballarat. 

“The tourism aspect is a lay-down misere,” he said.

“Social inclusion is important.

“It’s more likely to drag people who don’t normally inhabit the central areas to come through if they know there is a lower cost for communications.”

Federation University postgraduate psychology student Jeremy Caunt welcomed the idea and said he used computer and mobile devices on wi-fi regularly. 

“I think it’s a great idea for locals and visitors alike,” he said.

“I could use it in the library or the cafe to help with my studies.”

The announcement of free wi-fi in Ballarat comes as similar initiatives have been floated for Melbourne and Bendigo.

tom.cowie@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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