Norwich city centre to get free wi-fi?

Stefan Gurney

Stefan Gurney - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Norwich shoppers and tourists could be able to surf the web for free by Christmas under plans to bring wi-fi to the city centre.

Plans are being drawn up to allow everyone in the Business Improvement District (BID) – from Chapelfield Gardens to Norwich Castle and including St Andrew's Street and Surrey Street – to be able to get on to the internet without a charge.

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich BID, which is behind the plans, said it would put Norwich at the forefront of technology and would provide real value for the business community. Businesses in Norwich voted in 2012 to set up the new partnership to raise £3m to spend on improving the city. 'I think people have an expectation that they will go to a city and have that provision. BID saw it as one of the key things it could deliver for Norwich city centre,' said Mr Gurney.

The Norwich BID has drawn up a shortlist of national companies and local providers which could deliver the project, and it is now working through the detail.

Other cities nationally, among them Edinburgh and Manchester, have been able to put in free wi-fi under the government's super-connected cities programme.

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But Norwich did not qualify for the government cash because of its size.

Mr Gurney said: 'Norwich BID has decided we are keen to have that and not wait for it to come into the city. We want to try and deliver it ourselves.'

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He said that technology was the 'way forward' for the high street, and said the free wi-fi would allow more use of tap and go technology and near field technology, where people can pick up data on their phones by scanning a code.

It is not the first time Norwich has had a free wi-fi network.

A two-year pilot, Norfolk Open Link, funded by the East of England Development Agency ran from 2006 to 2008.

Mr Gurney said that he hoped the infrastructure would be in place for the pre-Christmas period, but it was dependent on the company installing the equipment in time.

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