FREE SURFING

THOUSANDS of Wodonga residents will have access to free internet within weeks when the chamber of commerce brings a new WiFi service to the city.

The deal with Sydney-based internet service provider myKP will see eight small radio receivers dotted around the city on landmarks such as the water tower and the roof of the council chambers.

The chamber of commerce says those receivers will serve two-thirds of the city.

Capable of speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, shared across all users, the free wireless internet could save Wodonga families on or considering landline broadband services.

If the system is popular a second stage, which would see the whole city covered, could be rolled out within a year.

“We’re going to have a wireless internet system covering two-thirds of Wodonga where the general community can get on and do all the normal things they do, like Google searches, and it won’t cost them a cracker,” Wodonga Chamber of Commerce general manager Rob Lucas said.

“If they have landlines like I have got and they pay $39.95 per month, $49.95, or $69.95, they could save that money.

“Wodonga is going to benefit because there will be some people who are not connected now to the internet, because of cost, who can be.”

The WiFi system has no download limit but users will not be able to download movies or music and Mr Lucas said “inappropriate” sites were not accessible.

He assured the community that “free means free” and the service was paid for via advertising support.

“If you’re coming into the WiFi you come through a window of advertising,” Mr Lucas said.

“Businesses will pay really small amounts of money and they’ll advertise on that and basically that advertising dollar has created the system.”

A portion of the advertising revenue will also go into a community fund which Wodonga school children and their families can apply to for a computer to assist with their education.

Wodonga should come online in the next four to six weeks.

Mr Lucas said expected coverage areas included Gateway Island, the central city and up Beechworth Road to the showgrounds, Centro Shopping Centre, Melbourne Road and the area around Mol­oney Drive, homes surrounding Edwards Tavern, Western Park, parts of Federation Park and Country Club Estate, Cambourne Park, Sanctuary Gardens, Willow Park and around the Blazing Stump Hotel.

The developing White Box Rise estate and Birallee area will not be covered until stage 2.

“Stage 2 will be built off the uptake and success of stage 1,” Mr Lucas said.

“But we anticipate in less than 12 months we’ll have Wodonga covered.”

Director of myKP George

Kaloudis said the wireless internet system had been set up in

10 areas, including Lane Cove Shopping Village in Sydney,

Gilgandra town centre and all of Wilcannia.

Plans are under way to set up in 12 more, including the Melbourne and Brisbane CBDs.

When users log onto the site they will be asked to register for a username and password which they can then use when in any of the myKP hotspots across the country.

Wodonga communications broker TCS R Direct will handle service requests for the system and

establish a troubleshooting hotline.

Director Robert Ablinger said the more the service was used myKP would add more ADSL2 connections to keep download speeds at optimum levels.