Over 40 public buildings in Oxford are set to transform into free Wi-Fi hotspots for tourists, residents and students by March of next year in plans unveiled last Thursday.
The proposal to introduce free Wi-Fi into institutions like Modern Art Oxford, Park and Ride sites and the County Hall, come as part of a planned £150m government investment across the UK.
This new Wi-Fi will not only benefit the tourists who visit Oxford’s world-famous museums and institutions, but Oxford University students themselves.
Leader of the City Council Bob Price explained how this new wider Wi-Fi coverage would directly advantage the student population.
He said, “Free City Centre Wi-Fi will mean that students can use all personal devices in the main facilities in the central area and have access to all web enabled systems.”
He continued to describe how these networks would also be extended further across the city to ensure that other areas are equally enabled for all- not just students and visitors, but residents and businesses also.
This could resolve the issues with Eduroam that plague some Oxford students, particularly when connecting to this cross-campus network via their mobile phones.
Fresher Pascal Foster complained of the unreliability of the current Wi-Fi network outside of college for him, saying, “Since I arrived here, Eduroam has been temperamental at vital moments when I needed to contact tutors, mainly when trying to access my emails through my mobile whilst walking between lectures or classes. It either refuses to connect or quickly loses connection.”
As a result he would be keen- like others who have found Eduroam can prove erratic- to find an alternative wireless solution when out and about in Oxford, however he doubted whether these particular new plans would impact him.
He added, “I’m not sure how far the Wi-Fi zone extends or how easily accessible it will be, but I’m unlikely to frequently visit the public places where it will be offered as I always seem to have so much on, so I’m not sure if t will improve my internet situation outside of college!”
However, History student Flora Raybould was quick to praise the new proposals, commenting, “I haven’t actually found Eduroam too problematic, but even so I think this new free Wi-Fi is a great way of encouraging students to visit different facilities in Oxford; either to work in or to look around.
“It’s also a great way of helping to integrate the student population into the Oxford community as it is something that will benefit all those who live, study and work in or are visiting here.”
The question of whether this new Wi-Fi will inspire students to visit more public institutions is definitely up for debate, as there are hopes that these proposals will not only positively impact those who connect to the new networks but the institutions that offer them.
Oxford Ice Rink, which already provides free Wi-Fi in its café, has said that the free network has played an important role in attracting more student customers and so has had a very important impact on their business.
Hopefully this will be the case for dozens of other institutions by this coming March, when their Wi-Fi networks are completely established.