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Swindon council promises townsfolk free Wi-Fi XTC

Leaves citizens feeling ten feet tall

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Swindon council has bought into the municipal Wi-Fi dream, taking a 35 per cent stake in a firm that will build a mesh network to give the Wiltshire town's citizens free net access.

Swindon Borough Council has partnered with aQovia to put up 1,400 access points in the city, and target the technology at other towns in the UK.

Everyone in the town will be able to get basic web access and email from next April, but will have to pay to take full advantage of the (up to) 20Mb the network promises.

The council promises that fees for the 20Mb services will be "significantly less" than competitors, and visitors can use the network on a pay as you go basis.

It will be interesting to see how established providers react to this challenge.

The actual subscription levels have yet to be worked out. The amount of access non-subscribers will get is also up in the air, although a set amount of time per week online seems the most likely option.

The backers have said that they are talking to "partners about providing recycled computers for those that don't have them".

The partners say the networking will be WPA encrypted, which will protect Swindonians' communications from eavesdropping.

This will be particularly reassuring to Swindonites, as the council and its partners are pushing the network's potential to "revolutionise home and business security courtesy of CCTV coverage with rapid response, allowing homes and businesses to be monitored via a control room or remotely using laptops".

However, it seems inevitable that non-Swindoners would want to take advantage of the system. Perhaps the best defence at this point is that they'd have to move to Swindon to do so. ®

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