FREE WIFI in Chichester city has now become a reality.
Entrepreneurs Toby Hooton and Alex Mills, both 25, announced their plans this summer to bring free wifi to the city centre after finding it impossible to send emails on their mobile phones.
“Because there’s no superfast broadband in Chichester yet, we’re going to be able to deliver superfast broadband faster than BT can,” said Toby last week.
The pair set up Open Air Comms and said they privately funded the £30,000 cost of installing the hardware to bring the wifi to life for shoppers and businesses alike.
“It’s not a profit exercise, it was never designed to be that,” Toby said, adding: “We’re genuinely two local guys with a vested interest locally.
“We can see what happens to Chichester. It will go like Bognor in the nicest possible way if we’re not careful.”
He said the move would boost businesses and companies which might have been tempted to leave the city because of its slow internet connections.
“It’s trying to fill this north/south divide. Everyone presumes everything south of London is fantastically well-connected. It’s not.”
The project is starting to see people connecting in North Street, South Street, West Street and East Street, with more areas being added.
On Tuesday morning (November 4), 190 had already connected with the wifi when Toby checked it at midday, a figure which is expected to grow.
It’s taken almost a full year now,” said Toby, who added the pair were inundated with messages of support from businesses in the city centre the last time they appeared in the Observer with their plan.
“We were absolutely amazed. It shows there’s a call for it. It’s really exciting to be able to help businesses have fast internet.”
The pair said Chichester was at the forefront of the plans, but they hoped eventually to develop the free wifi and roll it out across other towns in the area, such as Bognor Regis, Midhurst and Arundel.
Although the scheme is privately funded, Toby said the pair had a lot of support from West Sussex County Council.
“They’ve been massively pro-active,” he said.
The pair have also been backed by leading global brand KPMG.
They said the company’s director in the UK Caroline Haynes expressed her support for the scheme.
Businesses are able to use the wifi as a platform to advertise, with an initial screen appearing on logging in, however the pair said this went towards maintaining the wifi, and that Open Air Comms would not be a profit organisation ‘for at least a couple of years’.
They said it was important people were not bombarded with adverts when using the service, adding they had ‘hundreds of ideas’ for how the wifi could benefit the city, such as being able to pay for parking wirelessly.
The pair said the service was capable of providing internet speeds of up to 150 mbps.