Nelson Bay and Raymond Terrace part of planned Wi-Fi trial

The tourism mecca that is Port Stephens appears ready to catch the public Wi-Fi wave.

Each year 1.3 million people visit the area and Port Stephens Council has flagged a 12 month trial of free internet connectivity in Raymond Terrace and Nelson Bay.

Others have long since adopted the technology.

Besides Newcastle, there's Forster-Tuncurry that widely advertises the availability of Wi-Fi in areas with high foot-traffic.

"Like Port Stephens, our population swells during holiday times," Forster Tuncurry Business Chamber member Dimitri Tsahuridis said.

"You're not going to see many seniors surfing the web in public areas but in holiday times, when the average age plummets, that's who it's for. It’s part of the user experience for tourists who you have to cater for.”

Behind the scenes, Tomaree Business Chamber and Port Stephens Council have discussed the virtues of such a system.

While some people might simply use it to update their Facebook status the chamber president Ryan Palmer sees much bigger advantages.

He points to the Australian Smart Communities Association model, which through the use of CCTV can help manage traffic congestion in peak times and advise smart phone users on the availability of vacant car parking spaces.

The benefits are said to be so diverse the system can notify councils when bins are full so they can be emptied.

Tomaree Business Chamber president Ryan Palmer.

Tomaree Business Chamber president Ryan Palmer.

“Sure, if you’re on a pre-paid plan and you’re going to spend some time in the CBD it’s going to help and if you’re an international visitor who doesn’t want to switch on roaming it’s a vital part of the visitor experience,” Mr Palmer said.

“That’s especially the case if you’re going to have an airport with international arrivals.

“But it’s potential is much greater, for example people can receive information through an app on their phone with parking availability.

“The system could even send information to an electronic sign at the entry to town directing people to car parks.”

but it would help international guests tremendously, and then of course there’s the benefits of having a connected town,” Mr Palmer said.

The system also has potential in terms of research and planning.

“Speaking longer term, monitoring the flow of pedestrians could help us work out the best places for different businesses,” Palmer said.

“It might tell us where’s the best place to have a restaurant or a butcher.”

CAUSING A STIR: Cups N Saucers owner Racquel Peapell said her business like many benefits from technology. But she says there's a time and place for smart phones, as an advocate of old fashioned face time. Picture: Sam Norris

CAUSING A STIR: Cups N Saucers owner Racquel Peapell said her business like many benefits from technology. But she says there's a time and place for smart phones, as an advocate of old fashioned face time. Picture: Sam Norris

Raymond Terrace cafe owner Racquel Peapell said free internet connectivity would appeal to certain clientele.

"We get a few people you might call tourists who are travelling through on trips up and down the coast," she said.

"They've found us online but once they're here, they don't spend much time on their phones. 

"We're a place where people tend to do a lot more talking than internet browsing and the locals know they can access Wi-Fi at the library."

Mrs Peapell admits its a bit ironic that her business Cups N Saucers takes orders via app but can at the same time be a sanctuary from technology.

"We do take lunch orders that way for people who can't get out of the office," she said,

"But then we'll joke with people who are here for breakfast, who aren't talking to one another, that they should put their phones away.

"Technology's the way of the future but people should try putting their phones away from time to time."

Port Stephens Council will engage the services of a digital consulting agency after councillors endorsed the plan this week.

This will include consultation with the public to further gauge interest and include a cost-benefit analysis ahead of a 12-month trial.