All Public Libraries in England to Get FREE WiFi Access by March 2016 - ISPreview UK
The Government has announced that tier 1 local authorities can now apply for a slice of £7.1 million in public funding, which is designed to help them ensure that all public libraries in England can offer free wireless (WiFi) Internet access to visitors by March 2016.

Admittedly the move isn’t all that surprising because it follows last week’s related two-year pilot scheme, which involved BT and Barclays in helping to connect and support 100 libraries and community centres across the country (here). The plan was always to go much further and now that looks to be happening.

It’s hoped that free WiFi will encourage more people to use and enjoy their local libraries, which is a particularly challenging ask at a time when ever improving home connectivity would appear to be eroding the role that Libraries once filled.

Ed Vaizey, Culture Minister, said:

These funding programmes are a vital part of expanding the digital offer in libraries in England. Ensuring communities across England have access to free WiFi boosts the digital economy and enables more people to take advantage of everything the internet has to offer.

This Government is committed to enabling everyone who can get online to do so, and the Tinder Foundation funding is another step on that journey. By channelling the support through libraries, we can ensure that this opportunity to become digitally aware is available to the whole community
Apparently Libraries that don’t currently offer a free WiFi service will be given propriety for the funding, while those that already have WiFi will only be able to access the investment pot if their existing service is “below the recommended technical specification“.

Being we were curious to find out what the technical specifications were for the Government’s proposed service and after a little digging we came across the following answer, which suggests quite a modern setup (e.g. 802.11ac spec).

Mind you fast WiFi is only at its best when being fed by a similarly superfast fixed line broadband service, which may not be available to all such buildings.

Technical Standards

The service should be available to a wide range of typical users without unnecessary barriers to use. This drives the following recommendations that the service:

  • Must offer 802.11 g/n 2.4Ghz WiFi internet access,
  • Should support 802.11ac at 2.4 and/or 5Ghz,
  • Should be open access, free of WEP or WPA passwords,
  • Must be adequately secured and provide self-service access for users and should not require passwords if a captive portal is deployed (for instance, to force acknowledgement of any terms and conditions),
  • Must be advertised with signage and accompanying instructions, and
  • Restrict peer-to-peer communications to avoid direct access between two public devices.