Cape Town's free Wi-Fi plan inches forward

Cape Town. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Cape Town. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town – The City of Cape Town is taking a cautious approach to rolling out its Wi-Fi infrastructure, despite political will to expand public access to the internet.

“There are too many examples of public Wi-Fi initiatives by other cities which have failed after the initial emporia of the launch is forgotten and the ongoing financial liability the service presents needs to be burdened by the tax payer,” André Stelzner, chief information officer of the City of Cape Town told Fin24.

City officials have proposed a R1.2bn broadband plan that would boost access to the internet for poor people in the City of Cape and despite a budget allocation of R152m over the last two years, the City said that timelines are “determined largely by the available budget”.

The Western Cape Provincial government is rolling out a Wi-Fi programme intended to grant internet access to mainly poorer communities and Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain have already benefited.

"In the next three years, every ward will have at least one [Wi-Fi] hotspot," MEC Alan Winde promised in June this year.

Wi-Fi build programme

Stelzner, speaking at the Accelerate Cape Town’s forum on Digital Cape Town: Creating a Smart City on Friday, said that Cape Town has about 170 Wi-Fi hotspots and plans to construct another 120 by the end of the year.

“Through an open access model this [broadband] infrastructure is made available to service providers who, then in exchange for accessing the infrastructure, provide a specified daily allowance of free internet data to citizens,” he said.

In Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain, residents have access to 3GB of data per day, well above the standard 100MB in other areas.

About 30 000 residents currently access the City of Cape Town’s Wi-Fi network, while in Gauteng, 165 000 unique users per month access 633 public hotspots in the City of Tshwane.

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