Islington Council expands free Wi-Fi in the UK

Islington, a suburb of London, was among the first communities in the United Kingdom to offer free municipal Wi-Fi service. Now it is expanding the service to insure access to underserved residents and provide mobile access by council employees. Islington, a suburb of London, was among the first communities in the United Kingdom to offer free municipal Wi-Fi service. Now it is expanding the service to insure access to underserved residents and provide mobile access by council employees.

Islington offered one of the first large-scale free wireless networks in the UK. Their network began as a one-mile hot zone in 2005. In 2006, Islington and its service provider, Cityspace, began expanding the network. This most recent expansion enables mobile access for Islington council employees and contractors, as well as provides broadband service to 3,000 residents who live in the social housing estates of Ashby House and the Marquess.

Terry Stacy, deputy leader of the Islington Council and executive member for Housing and Communities, said that in addition to providing free service to persons who could not previously afford access, “the network also provides the council with another opportunity to reach our residents, and, critically, it’s a key enabler for regeneration – strengthening communities and increasing opportunities for people to work and learn wherever they are.”

The council’s announcement is printed below.

Islington unveils London’s first wireless housing estateFree wireless broadband network supports council’s regeneration drive

London, 10th December 2007 — Cityspace, the leading provider of urban digital networks and Islington?s Technology Solutions Group have completed the extension of the council?s Wi-Fi network bringing free broadband access to hundreds of social housing residence and enabling mobile working for council employees and contractors.

Cllr Terry Stacy, Islington Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Housing and Communities joined residents to mark the extension of the established ?Technology Mile? network to embrace the 3,000 residents of Ashby House and the Marquess housing estates.

“As a council we are always looking for new ways for residents to access our services but the cost of an internet connection has been a barrier for some,” said Stacy.

“Now we’ve made it free, anyone can easily get useful information to help improve their lives. The network also provides the council with another opportunity to reach our residents, and, critically, it’s a key enabler for regeneration – strengthening communities and increasing opportunities for people to work and learn wherever they are.”

Islington pioneered municipal wireless broadband with London?s original largest free network established in June 2005. The “Technology Mile,” as it was then called, ran from the affluent hub of the borough at The Angel to Highbury & Islington. In February last year, it was extended to 2.3 miles into the less privileged communities of Holloway Road and now runs into the ward of Canonbury, creating a virtual “wireless ward” of approximately an additional square mile.

An average of 15,000 users are logging onto the network every month and latest figures show some 500 users an hour on the Marquess and Ashby House estates alone accessing information and the internet through the council’s landing page through the “StreetNet” service delivered by Cityspace. The wireless mesh network uses 14 RepeatIT BS5432 nodes and delivers speeds of between 350-500 kbps.

Marc Meyohas, CEO of Cityspace, which installed and manages the network said: “This extension truly demonstrates the value of an urban municipal wireless service. Whilst plans are being considered for mobile working, VoIP, CCTV and other useful applications, the service is delivering a valuable commodity to the borough and Cityspace is proud to play its part in the project.”