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Free wifi to be rolled out in Glasgow in time for Games

THE roll-out of free wifi in ­Scotland's largest city is to finally get under way, with work accelerated to make sure it is up and running by the Commonwealth Games.

Glasgow City Council will confirm BT as the wifi provider later this week, with work starting immediately to meet the self-imposed April deadline after which no roadworks will take place until after the Games.

The council, which said it would be the first in Scotland to provide free internet access, is even asking that its procedures for scrutinising decisions by its executive committee be suspended lest they hold up the work.

BT has from Thursday until April 21 to install between 50 and 80 wireless access points, a key pledge in Labour's local election campaign in 2012.

However, the council has also confirmed limits on how "free" the access will be and where it will be rolled out to. Areas initially targeted include the city centre, the athletes' village in Dalmarnock and areas within the Clyde Gateway, a huge area primed for redevelopment but home to a very limited number of businesses.

Although it will be free for six months, the wifi will then be limited to a free 30 minutes, with users having to pay a subscription if they want to continue using it.

Access to some websites, ­including the council's own, will remain free permanently.

The next phase of Glasgow's wireless network would be rolled out towards early 2015, extending coverage more widely but limited at that stage to 30 minutes free.

A report by the council's head of corporate services, Annemarie O'Donnell, states: "The initial roll-out of the wireless network will focus on the city centre, main areas of high footfall (travel hubs, the main shopping streets) along with Glasgow Green and the transport hubs in Clyde Gateway.

"Further phases will then be developed to expand across the council's geographical area.

"The Concessionaire will initially provide unlimited public access to the wifi network to drive uptake and engagement in the first six months.

"It will then revert to a 30-minute free service, however, there will be a number of council nominated websites where access will remain free 24/7. Discussions are ongoing about which websites this 24/7 access will apply, but one will always be the council's."

The wifi is part of the city's ­digital strategy published last month with the aim of placing Glasgow amongst the elite of the world's "digital cities" by 2017.

The roll-out is based on a model used by several other major UK cities, meaning access to the ­wireless network comes through the lease of council-owned street furniture and property. It means the council does not have to make any investment, with the network being designed, built and operated by BT. Any subsequent support, maintenance, upgrading and monitoring will also come at no cost to the council.

Gordon Matheson, leader of the council, said: "Delivering a free wifi network is a key priority of the council. This would be a first for any Scottish city and it is great to see Glasgow living up to its innovative tradition.

"If approved by the committee, Glaswegians and our visitors will soon be able to access multimedia information on the city, its events, businesses and services on their devices. This network will play a key role in Glasgow's transition to becoming a digitally connected, smart city, with all the economic and social benefits that brings."

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Local government

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