Stawell leads way on Wi-Fi initiative

FREE public Wi-Fi is coming to Stawell, with council hoping the project will be completed by Easter.

The technology will allow devices to exchange data and connect wirelessly to the internet in Main Street, Stawell.

It will make Stawell the first place in regional Victoria to have free public Wi-Fi on such a scale.

Northern Grampians Shire Council chief executive Justine Linley said public access would provide a boost to tourism for Stawell.

"I think the critical thing is when people are moving around the state for business or tourism often they make a beeline to places where you can get public Wi-Fi," she said.

She said the project would relieve pressure on businesses which were currently providing free Wi-Fi to their customers.

"It means that individual businesses who might have been operating their own Wi-Fi services to specific clientele don't have to bear that burden any more," Mrs Linley said.

A council meeting on Tuesday night agreed to ask for State Government money for the project in light of the government's major initiative to roll out free public Wi-Fi to Melbourne, Ballarat and Bendigo.

Mrs Linley said a relatively small government contribution would make a major difference to the project.

"We were a little bit surprised to see the announcement made about Melbourne CBD as well as Ballarat and Bendigo, given that we've been working on this concept for three years and figured we were going to have to do it ourselves," she said.

"The government shouldn't really be forgetting smaller rural councils."

She suggested Stawell could be used as a trial site for Melbourne and other regional centres.

"It's not a great deal of money and it's something the government could easily support and it means we can open up that access to a broader range of people which encourages growth," Mrs Linley said.

Cr Karen Hyslop said government funding would relieve budgetary pressure for council and allow money to be diverted to other projects.

"If we can write to the Premier to seek funding to implement the Wi-Fi program then I think by all means we should do it," she said.

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