AN AMBITIOUS and innovative scheme to bring free WiFi to Midhurst in a bid to boost trade is set to take-off in the New Year.
The scheme is being led by the community group Midhurst Together and is operated by Toby Hooton and Alex Mills of Open Air Comms. They have recently launched a similar scheme in Chichester.
“We are both passionate about keeping the high street alive,” said Toby, “It’s all too easy to sit at home and go online but we need to keep the high street busy with shoppers.”
Their free WiFi package is a unique development to give traders digital advertising space which can be changed in an instant.
“There are plenty of companies around who can put free WiFi in for £50,000 or more,” said Toby, “it gives free internet but it doesn’t support local businesses.”
Open Air Comms brings free WiFi through a series of hand-sized boxes -which the company says do not need planning permission - strategically and invisibly placed on buildings throughout the town.
Visitors and residents could connect on the streets of Midhurst simply by turning on their phones and entering their email address when asked.
Then they are directed to a screen full of advertisements from local traders.
“We can’t solve the mobile phone signal problem in Midhurst but we can give people free internet on their phones and connect them to local shops. At least 92 per cent of people have a device which can be connect to WiFi and that is a massive market for traders in Midhurst.”
He reckoned it could cost some £12,000-£15,000 to install the WiFi in Midhurst and run it for a year.
He hoped to attract sponsors, but said Open Air Comms planned to go ahead anyway.
“We are not doing this for profit,” he said, “we make our profits in other parts of the industry. As long as the WiFi pays for itself and covers our costs that’s fine. We are passionate about helping the economy.”
Any trader wanting to advertise on the digital retail platform would be asked to pay a monthly fee, which, said Toby. could vary from £25-£40 a month depending on how many businesses took up the offer.
“What we are looking for now is commitment and support from traders and the people of Midhurst, we want to hear from as many people as possible, through twitter, facebook or email us.”
Meanwhile discussions are continuing with Midhurst Together. A public meeting is planned in the New Year as well as talks with traders, the Town Team and town councillors.
Sarah Murison of Midhurst Together said: “Free WiFi could bring really significant benefits. We should try and make it happen.
“Potential benefits include more information on what is happening in town, more visitors,
more street-life, more people from the catchment area choosing to shop in Midhurst than other towns.”
Contact for Open Air Comms : Website: www.openaircomms.com: www.twitter.com/openaircomms
www.facebook.com/openaircomms: Facebook Chi www.facebook.com/chichesterwifi or email: firstname.lastname@example.org