HORSHAM Rural City Council will trial free wifi internet access in the city centre as part of a digital community strategy.
The trial could be expanded across the municipality to include Natimuk, Laharum, Dadswells Bridge and Wartook.
The strategy, aimed at ensuring the community can access technology, also recommends that council host a biannual digital community forum, offer free wifi at its offices and lobby for better mobile phone coverage.
Cr Pam Clarke said the strategy would help council prepare for the rollout of the National Broadband Network, with construction set to begin in November.
She said the NBN would be revolutionary for Horsham businesses.
"We will be one of the first communities in regional Victoria to be connected. People liken it to when power was connected to houses," she said.
"We need to be a step ahead and ready to go.
"If businesses are not up to date with technology they will not survive."
Wimmera Development Association executive director Jo Bourke said businesses needed to make the most of the wifi trial by promoting themselves online.
"One of the challenges is for small business to keep up to date with the emerging trends in technology," she said.
"They are doing that and we are seeing more businesses developing websites, creating applications and using social media to promote their businesses.
"One of the things free wifi will do is build regional people's understanding of what businesses are available and will encourage them to support their local businesses."
Horsham's Cafe Red has offered free wifi since February.
Owner Jodie Morrow said while it had proved popular with tourists, Wimmera residents were not logging on to use the free wifi.
"I thought it might bring in a different, younger clientele or business people who could come for breakfast," she said.
"I find it is mostly popular with tourists, including backpackers staying out at Natimuk; I haven't noticed a lot of people from the area using it.
"I think if council is going to have free wifi they need to offer it right across Horsham because otherwise it could disadvantage businesses that aren't near the wifi."