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Issues remain with town centre Wi-Fi hotspots two years after installation

Issues with free public Wi-Fi installed in the town centre remain – despite the initial system being installed more than two years ago.

In 2015 Wrexham.com reported that plans to upgrade the town’s analogue CCTV with a new ‘hybrid transmission’ system had been announced by Wrexham Council.

As part of the upgraded CCTV network, a number of Wi-Fi hotspots were due to be created across the town centre, which Wrexham Council stated at the time would allow ‘visitors and residents improved access to public services and local businesses to be more competitive online’.

Funding for the new CCTV system came from capital funding of £74k allocated by the Council, with £158k from the Assets and Economic department, and £168k from ‘Vibrant and Viable Places’. The WiFi system was later added as a ‘bolt on’ to the CCTV system.

24 new CCTV cameras were installed across the town centre in June 2015, with the free Wi-Fi due to made available for public uses later that year in September.

However there were delays to the system and in 2016, a year after it had been installed for public use, we were told by a council spokesperson that: “Testing of the hotspots is ongoing, and we hope to have them all live in three to four weeks’ time.”

A month later during an Employment, Business and Investment Scrutiny meeting in October 2016 further delays to the system were confirmed by “another couple of weeks”.

During the meeting Cllr Rodney Skelland queried what impact the roll out of 4G would have on the usage of CCTV – with the actual systems installed prior to 4G coverage being readily available to near enough everyone with a data contract.

At the time Cllr Hugh Jones said: “When we went out to contract for the provision of CCTV it was some years ago and 4G wasn’t advanced.”

“We will review at the end of the three years and see if it something we want to continue with.”

Three years has been mentioned a few times in relation to Vibrant and Viable Places spend, with Sprouts Nursery in Rhosddu closed in September 2017 due to it no longer being financially sustainable without council support.

Last month Wrexham Council announced that ownership of Tŷ Pawb, the town’s new arts and market space would remain under their management for a minimum of three years despite initial plans to hand it over to a trust. Such plans to either transfer to a trust or retain council management will be reviewed fully in three years.

The end of the three year period with the CCTV and Wi-Fi system should in theory be due at the end of 2018.

Now more than two years after the installation of the new Wi-Fi system remains, with seemingly inconsistent access for those lucky enough to be able to get on it in the first place.

One local business owner who has been regularly trying to connect told us: “The council say they need to save money, yet we waste money on ideas that sound good but don’t get going.

“A prime example of this is town centre WiFi. This seems to have gone quiet recently. The reason for this is it doesn’t work!”

Despite attempting to test the system several times over the period since installation it has not been possible for us or others to use it, although the hotspots show to connect but nothing more.

The system was also mooted to raise several thousand pounds as part of a revenue raiser to offset against cuts being made at the Council, with various user logging and profiling tools to allow tracking and marketing – and therefore monetisation of those using it. This is due to making Wrexham Council £3,000 a year, as part of the PWC consultants ‘reshaping’ ideas.

Wrexham.com recently queried with Wrexham Council on any details of issues with the Wi-Fi and how many people have logged in to it since its installation.

Cllr Terry Evans, Lead Member for Economic Performance and Regeneration replied to us saying: “We are aware of issues with town centre Wi-Fi, and a visit by an engineer to inspect the system has been arranged.”

The second part of our query regarding logins has not been answered, with no usage figures having been released.

Top pic: The current state of play, the hotspots are visible but do not do anything.

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