Monday, October 16, 2017

Superfast Essex Project Opens Community Wi-Fi Scheme to All Suppliers

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The publicly funded Community WiFi scheme in Essex, which offers small grants (up to £400) to help communities setup a public wireless network via local hubs (village halls, community centres etc.), has this month been opened up to all suppliers via the regional Superfast Essex project.

The scheme, which is funded by Essex County Council's Community Initiatives Fund (CIF), was first launched last year (here) and since then a total of 19 "successful applications" have been received from community hubs. However only 5 of those are live with the Wi-Fi service in Alphamstone, Bradwell, Mayland, Peldon and White Colne.

At launch the scheme was only offered via two "approved suppliers" ('APC Solutions' or 'County Broadband') and the local authority admits that some of the feedback they received about this revealed that the number of suppliers "was too restrictive." As a result Superfast Essex has opened up the scheme and communities can now select a broadband ISP of their choice to install their "superfast broadband" and Wi-Fi service.

The scheme was officially "re-launched" on Saturday 14th October.

Kevin Bentley, Deputy Council Leader, said:

"This scheme provides a great opportunity for communities to get online and access faster connectivity so it is great news the Community Initiatives Fund has agreed to support it for a second year. I encourage all communities without Wi-Fi currently to consider submitting an application and with an open choice of supplier there is even more choice."

It's worth noting that a venue can only be classified as a community hub if it is run as a charity or on a "not for profit" basis. Likewise only communities that already have access to a superfast broadband (24Mbps+) network can bid for the grant. Further details here.

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