Free Wi-Fi scheme likely to boost the local economy

Free Wi-Fi scheme likely to boost the local economy

Free Wi-Fi scheme likely to boost the local economy

First published in Opinion

The world continues to change at an ever-increasing pace, with more and more of our everyday lives reliant on the internet and social media.

We shop, do business and communicate with each other online and even decide where we are going to eat or visit based on reviews posted on the internet.

And when we arrive somewhere new, one of the first questions on many people’s lips will be: “Do you have free Wi-Fi?”

So it is exciting South Lakeland District Council is hoping to make Kendal the first town centre in the North West - and only the fourth in England - to offer free Wi-Fi to locals and visitors, who will be able to connect to it through their smart ‘phones.

It hopes installing three wireless network devices, at a cost of up to £30,000, will help promote local independent businesses and increase tourism, particularly as the ‘home page’ that will appear when people log on will show users what shops, restaurants, services and attractions are available in the area.

This bold and innovative proposal has already been welcomed by business leaders and young people and it could be rolled out to other towns, including Ulverston, Ambleside and Bowness.

The move comes at a time when controversial on-street parking fees are being introduced by Cumbria County Council in Kendal, Bowness and Ambleside. The county council says it needs the cash to fund other services and that increased turnover of parking spaces might boost trade.

Many local shopkeepers and residents believe on-street parking fees will put off visitors and make living in this area more expensive.

The proof remains to be seen and the county council should thoroughly appraise the effect on trade of the parking charges before considering expanding the scheme to other streets.

But it would be disappointing in Kendal if the free Wi-Fi benefits were cancelled out by people choosing to shop elsewhere because they struggle to find anywhere free to park.

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