Fast and free: where to surf the net for nothing

If you are new to a city, there’s nothing like being able to log on to a fast free internet connection to find your feet.

Free WiFi can be found in many cities around the world, but usually only in select locations such as hotels, public buildings and restaurants.

Some cities have taken it a step further, such as Adelaide and Brisbane - where it’s available through the CBD and in parks - and Melbourne, where it’s free in Federation Square.

In places like Hong Kong, and South Korea, free WiFi is widely available. While in India free high-speed internet access is being rolled out in 2500 cities and towns over the next three years - though it will only be free for a limited time before a nominal charge is levied.

Fast and Free

Free fast WiFi is a growing phenomena and a taste of what’s possible in Australia. It is being trialled over the nbn™ network in the tourist town of Kiama where a new level of accessibility and communication is being developed.

Lighthouse at Kiama, one of the town's main tourist attractions. © Ckaipraiwan | Dreamstime.com

Kiama, on the New South Wales South Coast, was one of the first towns in the country to get fast internet connections in the nbn™ network rollout. In the four years since, it has pioneered initiatives that have changed the way its business, education, health and social institutions deliver services.

The latest initiative to be trialled is free WiFi over the nbn™ network in the town centre. If you are sitting on a bench in the high street, or in a cafe, shop or bank, you will be able to get fast internet access … free.

Perhaps that will attract a new high-tech style of busker, budding J.K. Rowlings writing a multimedia Potteresque fantasy, or start-up businesses from surrounding areas. Perhaps a lot more coffee will be sold.

Helping the Town’s Tourism

Kiama Council’s award-winning communications specialist Pip Spence says the initial aim is to power the new CCTV cameras and encourage greater connectivity along the main street to drive tourism, the town’s lifeblood.

“The resolution with these new high definition cameras running on the nbn™ network is incredible,” she says. “You can see everything so much more clearly than before.”*

The free WiFi link will take you to the Kiama Connect site, where the council will encourage people to share and upload videos. There will also be competitions, guided tours, local history, walking routes, and photos.

Inspired Innovations and Explorations

Over at Kiama Library, they have been leading the way in how libraries around the country can use the nbn™ network to attract new people.

The library manager, Michelle Hudson, in a report on the Library of the Future, wrote of the new services that could be offered with the nbn™ network, such as:*

  • Technology training
  • Video-conferencing with those unable to get to the library
  • Relaying stories to children at home on smart TVs
  • Taking students on virtual tours

Students are able to tour the National Museum of Australia by enabling them to control a robot at the museum and interact with a guide. “Each child could explore the exhibition by themselves, looking at things like Phar Lap’s heart, from here in Kiama,” says Ms Hudson. “It shows, you can be in a library in Kiama but somewhere else in the world.”

Other nbn™ driven innovations in Kiama include:

  • Running its own version of Q&A every month where instead of physically going to council meetings, ratepayers can question the full council meeting via their computers 
  • Telehealth and mental health projects being run by the area health authority, where patients can monitor their blood sugar levels or blood pressure at home, and video-conference with their doctor or counsellor

As Ms Spence says, “It’s all about new connections and looking at networks to make the most of opportunities.”

 

* Your experience including the speeds actually achieved over the nbn™ network depends on the technology over which services are delivered to your premises and some factors outside our control like your equipment quality, software, broadband plans and how your service provider designs its network.

 

Check your address to find out if the nbn™ network is available at your home or business.