‘No wi-fi hotspots’ for Carrick town centre

Cllr. Andrew Wilson.
Cllr. Andrew Wilson.

Mid and East Antrim councillor Andrew Wilson has expressed disappointment that WiFi hotspots will not be made available in Carrick town centre as part of the current work by Virgin Media.

The Knockagh representative said: “At our full council meeting in December, I had added a recommendation to a proposal linked to the ongoing work by Virgin Media that we should actively explore options for adding WiFi hotspots to our town centre to improve connectivity.

“It was my view that such a gesture would help act as a goodwill gesture given the disruption that residents will endure in Carrickfergus, following similar work in Greenisland.”

Council advised the UUP councillor: “In relation to your recommendation at Full Council in December. Officers have since engaged with Virgin Media’s Regional Business Development Lead, and unfortunately, Virgin Media are unable to add Wi-Fi hotspots to Carrickfergus town centre as part of this project.

“You will be aware that improving broadband and Wi-Fi connectivity is a key priority of the Amplify Strategy. Officers will continue to work with Virgin and other providers to maximise improvements to connectivity in our town centres.

“Free Wi-Fi in the legacy Ballymena Borough Council was removed as part of its Public Realm enhancements due to significant additional costs and feedback received from other town centres who had installed Wi-Fi.

“Since then, with the advancements in technology, many outlets have free Wi-Fi in store and the availability and access to 4G and possibly 5G in the near future.

“Last month, council applied to WiFi4EU, which is an EU funded initiative offering a municipality a voucher worth £15,000 to purchase and install Wi-Fi in public places.

“The requirement of the programme was that only one voucher can be applied for and that successful applicants would be chosen at random via electronic means with 15 vouchers allocated per member state.

“Unfortunately on 11 December 2018 we were advised that our area had not been chosen at random to receive this voucher.

“It is disappointing to learn that both Virgin Media and the EU funded initiative WiFi4EU have not been able to provide the WiFi service for Carrickfergus.”

A spokesperson for Virgin Media said: “Virgin Media has more than 3.5 million WiFi hotspots across the UK and is an exclusive service for its customers. We have explained in meetings that WiFi hotspots in the town centre is not part of our current plans however we are open to further discussions with the local council to explore further possible opportunities.”