Melbourne will soon have free public Wi-Fi after Victorian premier Denis Napthine called for private sector expressions of interest to deliver the service as part of a pilot.
The Public Wi-Fi initiative aims to create a consistent Wi-Fi experience, expanding broadband connectivity to boost productivity and service delivery for residents and visitors.
The networks will be delivered in partnership between the government, the City of Melbourne and the private sector.
Napthine said it would also help draw more businesses and entrepreneurs to Victoria.
“As the first step, the initiative aims to pilot fast, reliable and free Wi-Fi services in central Melbourne, in and around publicly owned infrastructure, including public transport hubs and tourist attractions for the next three to five years,” he said.
“Providing free public Wi-Fi in the city is part of the State Government’s agenda to build a better Victoria."
He encouraged innovative expressions of interest that would ensure a reliable, sustainable free service that is also filtered for prohibited and undesirable content.
“All responses will be assessed on their commercial viability with strong preference given to proposals where there is no ongoing cost to government, beyond any potential initial investment to establish the infrastructure,” he said.
“Government investment could include direct grants or in-kind contributions like advertising, sponsorship and priority access to public infrastructure and facilities.”
Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said that as the economy changes from a traditional manufacturing base to a knowledge base, tools like Wi-Fi become critical.
“More free Wi-Fi in the city is great for residents, visitors and tourists,” he said.
Technology minister Gordon Rich-Phillips said the EOI process would provide the Victorian Government with a better understanding of the supplier market and available solutions as it develops a business model, leveraging public infrastructure to roll out more Public Wi-Fi networks across the state.
“The Public Wi-Fi initiative will support small businesses, improve the tourism experience, assist our education sector, and further strengthen Victoria as Australia’s leading technology state,” he said.
“The provision of free Wi-Fi at Flinders Street Station has been a success and we are looking to provide this amenity more broadly.”
Expressions of Interest are open from March 12-17 April 2014.
The government expects to award contracts in mid-2014. It is the first stage in a larger roll-out of public Wi-Fi.