A new scheme has been launched by Essex County Council’s Superfast Essex programme to enable local communities to access a public Wi-Fi service in community buildings or ‘hubs’.
Superfast Essex is the county’s broadband improvement programme which is working to make Essex one of the best connected counties in the UK. So far the programme has enabled more than 65,000 homes and businesses to access superfast broadband speeds. The programme is also planning future work to extend coverage even further still.
With the infrastructure being upgraded across the county over the next few years, Superfast Essex would like to support local communities in experiencing superfast speeds at their local community hubs, encouraging them to see how it might benefit them at home.
Under the scheme, community hubs (such as village halls or community centres) can buy a broadband service from two approved suppliers, APC Solutions or County Broadband.
Initial set up costs will be supported by the Community Initiatives Fund (CIF) and community hubs will subsequently need to pay a monthly service charge.
The CIF is a small grants scheme funded by Essex County Council, designed to fund community projects. Money from the CIF has been set aside to help community hubs pay for the setup costs of a Wi-Fi service as offered by the two service providers under this scheme. Up to £400 can be claimed per community hub by completing a short online form similar to the general CIF application process.
Essex County Councillor Penny Channer, Deputy Cabinet Member for Broadband and Enterprise and Superfast Essex Steering Board Chairman, said: “Our aim is to encourage and support communities to make use of the upgraded infrastructure being installed by the Superfast Essex Programme and we’re really pleased the CIF has been able to help make this scheme possible. The scheme is aimed at but not limited to community hubs enabled to access superfast broadband.
“I would really encourage community hubs to take advantage of the scheme as it could help existing groups using community hubs to be better engaged online, or provide additional value to the venue for future prospective users looking for somewhere to hire.”
The Community Wi-Fi Scheme is supported by the Rural Community Council of Essex (RCCE) and the Essex Association of Local Councils (EALC) and was presented to delegates at the RCCE Village Halls Conference in October, generating initial interest from around 15 communities. Representatives from APC Solutions and County Broadband were in attendance to answer any questions about their services and are in full support of the scheme. Both companies can be contacted via their respective websites below: www.apcsolutionsuk.com
More information on the Community Wi-Fi Scheme including costs and how to apply can be found at www.superfastessex.org/communitywifischeme and application forms for funding for the Community Wi-Fi Scheme can be found on the CIF website at www.essex.gov.uk/CIF.