Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document
Meeting of the Executive held on 05/02/2008
Waverley Borough Council
EXECUTIVE - 5TH FEBRUARY 2008
[Portfolio Holder for IT and Communications: Cllr A E B Taylor-Smith]
[Portfolio Holder for Local Economy: Cllr D C Inman]
[Wards Affected: Godalming Central]
Summary and purpose:
This report seeks Members’ approval to a one-year pilot scheme which would see part of Godalming town centre become ‘Wireless’, enabling businesses, residents, visitors and students to have free access to the internet in the area. Wireless technology is radically changing the way local authorities, individuals and businesses work – there is a huge benefit, for example, in terms of local competitiveness for business and convenience for residents. The scheme has the support of Members of Godalming Town Council.
There would be no visible change to the built environment - the system would be wireless.
Social / community implications:
There would be benefits to the community including residents, businesses and visitors in terms of more flexible and convenient access to information.
This pilot scheme would make a positive contribution to e-government seeing Godalming potentially become the first market town in the UK to go wireless, with benefits for the wider community. Access to Waverley’s website and services would be available. As part of the proposal, the scheme would also provide free public access to the internet in the public and Members’ areas of the Council offices.
1. This report seeks Members’ agreement to support a pilot scheme to make part of Godalming ‘wireless’. In essence, this would mean providing a secure wireless network for the citizens, visitors and businesses of Godalming that can be used for connecting laptops, mobile phones, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) and gaming devices to the internet from the town. It is proposed that the pilot zone covers an area from the railway station to the Council offices including the Pepperpot, Godalming High Street, Bridge Street, The Burys and the Library with a small transmitter at each of these key locations.
2. The pilot scheme would last one year from the formal launch. If successful, after review and any amendment, consideration could be given to extending the scheme to other parts of the Borough.
The proposal has positive implications for business, education, and local government by providing free internet access to anyone visiting or working in the pilot zone.
3. The demand for wireless access is increasing. Research shows that two thirds of the European working population is equipped with mobile devices and there are now over 140,000 wireless ‘hotspots’ providing internet access worldwide. A number of larger towns and cities in the UK have already gone wireless, for instance Norwich, and the rural areas around it, gained access last year to Britain's largest free wi-fi network with investment from the Regional Development Agency in the region of £1.5m. Originally designed to provide free broadband to local businesses, it has since been extended to include council employees and the general public with a network covering a 4km radius from County Hall, as well as providing for local universities, hospitals and business parks. In a separate project, BT has signed deals with a number of cities including Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool and Cardiff to provide widespread wireless coverage.
4. In many towns in the UK, there are commercial offerings where users typically pay in the region of £6 for 60 minutes use. This pilot scheme would be different to and not competing with the commercial offerings in that it would offer limited bandwidth to users in public spaces. Individual businesses in the town could however boost the signal to offer a full speed connection to its customers and businesses.
5. If this scheme is approved, Godalming would potentially be the first town of its size to go wireless. There are
several wireless ‘hotspots’ in Godalming already, usually located in cafes and pubs. The pilot scheme would offer a coherent network, and extension to other areas including for instance, the railway station where, for example, commuters waiting for trains would have the facility to work remotely.
6. It is proposed that the pilot would be delivered by Gary Hudson (founder of Milford based business 802UK) now MD of the wireless division of Nouveau Solutions Ltd. The company has to date specialised in delivering wi-fi (wireless) technology to the education sector. The company has agreed to supply the consultancy and labour required for the installation of the pilot free of charge and has been developing the proposal in partnership with Waverley and Connected Surrey over the last year.
7. As a local business, 802UK were keen to give Godalming another ‘first’, building on Godalming’s history as the first town with a public electricity supply and the connection with Jack Phillips as the ‘wireless’ operator on the Titanic.
8. The scheme was fully supported by Godalming Town Council at its meeting in August 2006 and was referenced in the Borough’s Economic Strategy which the Council approved in spring 2007. Since then, Nouveau have developed a scoping report and agreed permission with the key property owners in the town where the transmitters would need to be attached. Finance and the necessary staff capacity are also now in place to allow the scheme to proceed, subject to approval.
9. There are a number of potential benefits of the scheme, including:
- Local business could use the wireless infrastructure to access the Internet and their corporate servers from any location within the wireless coverage area. For the smaller business/shops this could negate the need to invest in a broadband connection. Waverley Borough Council could also test the opportunities that a wireless infrastructure would provide for its own services.
Convenience for Residents/Visitors
– visitors to the town would have the convenience and flexibility of being able to make arrangements away from home.
- Deploying external wireless cameras could improve the security around the town. Lower in cost compared to traditional CCTV, they can be moved easily and would contribute to a safer environment for businesses, visitors and citizens
Emergency Services/Government Agencies
- Police, Fire, Ambulance and government agencies could use the wireless Infrastructure for deploying external wireless cameras, wireless phones and setting up mobile LANs. Routing data, video or voice across a secure network within moments of an incident in real time could save lives. Recent floods and the outbreak of foot and mouth highlighted the need for rapid response. Information and images need to be transmitted quickly and securely. Wireless networks facilitate this.
- People on low incomes could have access to the internet free of charge - access could be provided by laptops in public buildings such as the museum or Council reception area.
– The pilot fits well within the Connected Surrey project run by Surrey Economic Partnership with funding from SEEDA, as well as the wider e-government agenda.
– Students studying at Godalming College could access the College’s Curriculum Servers and network from any location covered by the Wireless Network.
Issues to consider
10. A number of issues were raised by the Town Council when they discussed the concept. These included:
- There has been a lot of publicity in recent months about whether wireless networks are safe. Health Protection Agency advice is that there is no consistent evidence that exposure to the low power radio signals from wi-fi adversely affects the health of the population. Radio frequency exposure from wi-fi is likely to be lower than from mobile phones.
the wireless networks installed and maintained use the most up-to-date security method. Security is also central in the design of a wireless network that uses multiple SSID’s (network names) ensuring there is no possibility of data or voice traffic leaking from one network to another. The system would use a standard disclaimer as found on similar wireless access points, requiring any user to accept that they are responsible for any use and that Waverley has no responsibility for the use made of the system.
Street clutter –
the scheme would be visually unobtrusive and would need only five or six A5 sized transmitters placed along the route.
the network should be able to cope with c100 simultaneous users without impacting on the proposed bandwidth.
11. After the sponsorship contribution of 802UK/Nouveau is taken into account, the project net costs will be £10,000 for procurement of hardware, installation and maintenance of the network for a year. A small budget would also be needed for marketing. The project therefore requires, and has secured, an investment of approximately £11,000. This would be made up of £6,000 from Waverley Borough Council (within Economic Development budget) and £5,000 coming from Connected Surrey scheme run by Surrey Economic Partnership with funding from SEEDA. It is proposed that for the pilot, ownership of the Network would be held by Waverley Borough Council during the pilot, however the design, installation, maintenance and support would be the responsibility of Nouveau. If the pilot were extended beyond the first year maintenance costs in the region of £3,000 per annum would need to be found.
12. The one year pilot would allow for testing and give time to establish the most appropriate town wireless strategy for the long term based upon real user experiences and feedback. If it is deemed successful and if there is demand, it could be rolled out to other parts of the Borough after review in spring 2009. It is proposed that the pilot project would be used as a showcase and reference site for other market towns during the pilot scheme period.
13. The following timetable is proposed:
5th February 2008 - Executive
19th February 2008 - Council
Early March 2008 - If approved, there would be a ‘soft’ launch involving testing of the equipment.
Early May 2008 – The scheme would go live with local publicity and information.
Spring 2009 – Review of the pilot
Marketing and information
14. The initial marketing and promotion of the pilot would precede the formal launch in May and would include details on Waverley’s website, an article in ‘Making Waves’ and leaflets available in key areas such as the station, retail premises, the library etc. The launch could be tied in with promotion for the new Waverley website and other local events.
Measuring the use of the network
15. Measuring the use of this wireless network would be very important to the success of the pilot. The management system operated by Nouveau has many monitoring capabilities and monthly reports can be provided giving statistics on the use of the network. The statistics can be given globally, by user group, or even by location, providing information such as the following - Quantity of Users, Duration of sessions, Peak Times (can be split hourly, daily, or even yearly) Repeat Visitors, and Data Quantity Usage. It would also be possible to survey users and businesses to get more detailed information.
16. If it is felt the pilot has been successful and there is demand from other parts of the Borough, then the scheme could be rolled out elsewhere. As part of the review, proposals for the future funding and management of the scheme would be explored.
Members are asked to support the Wireless Godalming pilot as set out in report, including:
1. Waiving of Contract Procedure Rules to work with 802UK, a division of Nouveau Solutions Ltd to provide the pilot wireless project in Godalming;
2. Officers preparing detailed legal and technical arrangements with 802UK/Nouveau Solutions Ltd;
3. a transmitter being placed on Council property at The Burys; and
4. A review of the pilot being undertaken by Spring 2009, with a view to rolling out the scheme, to be funded by private sector and Town and Parish Council support.
There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.