Free Wi-Fi for Melbourne

Government to award contracts in mid-2014

Melbournians will soon be able to get on the Internet for free in the CBD.

The Victorian government and City of Melbourne have announced a pilot project that will deliver free Wi-Fi in central Melbourne. If successful, the program could be expanded to other areas of Victoria.

The project will be delivered under a partnership including the Victorian government, Melbourne City government and the private sector. The state government today opened submissions for expressions of interest.

“As the first step, the initiative aims to pilot fast, reliable and free Wi-Fi services in central Melbourne, in and around publicly owned infrastructure, including public transport hubs and tourist attractions for the next three to five years,” said Victoria Premier Denis Napthine.

“Providing free public Wi-Fi in the city is part of the State Government’s agenda to build a better Victoria,” he said.

Napthine said the government seeks proposals that “will ensure a reliable, sustainable free service that is also filtered for prohibited and undesirable content”.

“All responses will be assessed on their commercial viability with strong preference given to proposals where there is no ongoing cost to government, beyond any potential initial investment to establish the infrastructure,” he said.

Napthine added the government could provide “direct grants or in-kind contributions like advertising, sponsorship and priority access to public infrastructure and facilities”.

The Victorian government hopes to use the Melbourne experience as a model for bringing free Wi-Fi to other areas of the state, said Victorian minister for technology, Gordon Rich-Phillips.

“The Public Wi-Fi initiative will support small businesses, improve the tourism experience, assist our education sector, and further strengthen Victoria as Australia’s leading technology state,” he said.

The submission period for expressions of interest will close on 17 April. The government said it plans to award contracts in mid-2014.

The announcement comes on the heels of news that NBN Co had begun trials of fibre-to-the-basement broadband in eight high-rise buildings in Melbourne.

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of a dystopian novel about surveillance. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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