Visitors to the Nelson Bay and Raymond Terrace CBDs could soon have access to a secure public Wi-Fi network if the numbers stack up.
Port Stephens Council will engage the services of a digital consulting agency to investigate what would be required to set up a 12 month trial.
Councillors agreed to the investigation at Tuesday night’s council meeting, with a budget of $4500.
“A lot of cities have got public Wi-Fi, it’s the way of the future but there isn’t any in Port Stephens,” Cr Chris Doohan said.
The deputy mayor said Wi-Fi was one of the better discussions topics he took part in at the Local Government NSW Annual Conference in 2016.
“Nelson Bay and Raymond Terrace are two very good places to trial it and see how it goes over a 12 month period,” he said.
“There are even opportunities for individuals, different groups and businesses to advertise through this to cover the cost.”
Cr Ken Jordan said he had been impressed with the potential safety benefits.
Wi-Fi enabled cities enable centralised monitoring of traffic, security (CCTV) and coordinated emergency response.
“One of the staff from Newcastle City Council was very knowledgeable about Wi-Fi, with the smart cities, safe cities principle,” he said.
“It would be lovely if the federal government did fund it but that would be a tall order and credit where it’s due, Newcastle City Council done a great job implementing Wi-Fi.”
The council last discussed Wi-Fi in November. Since then the council staff have since compiled a framework to assess the consultant’s report.
Some of the key factors to be determined include coverage footprint, security controls, the type of infrastructure required and the ongoing costs.
For Nelson Bay, at least, the desire is strong.
The 2012 NSW Visitor Economy Taskforce Report found public Wi-Fi was “imperative” to improve the visitor experience through the provision of timely, accurate and relevant information.
The council’s strategy and environment section manager David Rowland noted in his report to councillors that a public Wi-Fi system would help the tourism sector provide information on events, transport, beach conditions, markets and special offers.
“To achieve this seamlessly the ideal solution is to push this messaging to visitors when they are connected to the free Wi-Fi service,” he said.
Mr Rowland when on to note that the Wi-Fi network to entice tourists to stay longer and spend more.
The council, in partnership with Destination Port Stpehens, owns a tour and accommodation booking engine that generates $1 million a year and that 54 per cent of this digital traffic comes from mobile devices.
“There is an opportunity for council to increase revenue through this booking engine by providing access to free Wi-Fi that would allow visitors to book tours and experiences whilst in destination,” Mr Rowland said.