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Mansfield Could Become First UK Town to Crowdfund a FREE WiFi Service

Wednesday, Nov 14th, 2012 (8:03 am) - Score 589

The busy town of Mansfield in Nottinghamshire could soon benefit from the installation of a free wireless internet (wifi) service that would cover its retail heart. But unlike most projects this one will be funded by members of the public and local businesses. The model could potentially work for rural broadband too.

Crowdfunding website Spacehive.com, which works by taking online cash pledges from businesses, public bodies and ordinary members of the public and using them to fund popular projects, has joined forces with Mansfield’s Business Improvement District (BID) and the Mansfield District Council (MDC) to make the effort happen.

Sarah Nelson, Manager of Mansfield BID, said:

There’s a lot we can achieve by bringing the community together and helping ourselves. Clearly the Web has had a massive effect on retail but by using this to our advantage – and giving locals the chance to use free Wi-Fi – we can help drive up footfall and encourage more growth in local enterprise, whether it’s through it’s through people stopping for a coffee while they check their emails or eople making use of internet offers for local retailers.”

Mansfield’s BID hopes to install free wi-fi transmitters on lampposts across the town, while public spaces will also be adorned with Quick Response (QR) codes (Smartphone scanned barcodes that provide information on the latest shopping, offers, events and attractions). At the time of writing 21 funders have pledged £5,501 towards the effort, which is still a long way off the £37,717 target.

It’s an interesting idea and we can’t help but wonder whether a similar solution could encourage more engagement from the public in remote rural areas, specifically those that have long been neglected by BT and or other big broadband operators (assuming of course that councils don’t use it as a method to shirk their own responsibilities to local residents). The B4RN project did something similar but that was arguably a lot bigger and more complicated (share dealing) than Spacehive’s model.

In reality many rural broadband projects are hugely expensive but some areas would surely benefit from such an approach, especially if rival ISPs could offer a selection of options with the appropriate pros and cons of each being clearly spelled out. At the very least it might help to educate local people about the true cost of telecoms infrastructure, which could be a good thing.

Spacehive itself is backed by the Big Lottery Fund, UnLtd and a number of private investors.

Spacehive – Make Mansfield YOUR hotspot!

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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