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Canterbury councillor calls for free city-wide wi-fi to tackle 'appalling' mobile phone coverage


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A leading councillor is calling for free, city-wide wi-fi to be made available to tackle "appalling" mobile phone coverage.

Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding says the lack of signal in many areas costs businesses time and money, and also stops visitors finding their way around and discovering hidden gems, therefore reducing their spend in the local economy.

He is putting forward a Notice of Motion at tonight's (Thursday's) full council meeting for improvements to be made, by working with infrastructure companies and lobbying mobile phone providers.

Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding is calling for action over the city's poor mobile phone coverage .Picture: Andy Jones. (6615329)
Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding is calling for action over the city's poor mobile phone coverage .Picture: Andy Jones. (6615329)

He is also demanding the council works with Canterbury Bid and other stakeholders to help bring free wi-fi to key parts of the city.

"It's not a trivial problem, it's a very real one," he said.

"On a personal level, we've come to rely on our phones as a crucial way to keep in touch, and that disconnection that occurs across much of Canterbury city centre leaves a lasting negative impression in our psyche.

"Perhaps your phone shows 3G but nothing seems to be happening. Perhaps it shows 'No Service'. Or perhaps you weren't even aware of a problem until you hit a free wi-fi hotspot and were inundated with messages and missed call alerts."

Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding says Canterbury city centre has appalling mobile phone coverage.
Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding says Canterbury city centre has appalling mobile phone coverage.

Cllr Fitter-Harding says the main issue is that Canterbury is a medieval city with narrow streets, making it a difficult area to cover and when putting in applications for phone masts.

"I want us to work with infrastructure companies MBNL and CTIl, understanding the infrastructure and providing it wherever possible.

"I'd like Canterbury to be looked at as a test for 5G so when it's rolled out in other difficult cities, they can look at what they did here.

"By embracing trials of 5G and evolving standards we can leap ahead into an excited, connected future."

He says the city has a network of CCTV which uses internet access and he wants that to help in the provision of free wifi.

"We don't want a spotty network," he said.

"By bringing about free, city-wide wi-fi and engaging the very firms that build our mobile networks, we can take our city out of the dark ages and into the present."

Survey

The city centre's poor mobile network coverage emerged as one of the biggest gripes in a survey conducted by the Canterbury Business Improvement District.

And boss Lisa Carlson says it is a high on her organisation's list of issues to help tackle.

"It's very frustrating for businesses and shoppers alike and we are working with the city council to do what we can to improve things, " she said.

Canterbury BID boss Lisa Carlson (5395619)
Canterbury BID boss Lisa Carlson (5395619)

Mrs Carlson says the Canterbury BID has written to network providers to complain about the "unacceptable" service.

"We need better connectivity for business effectiveness and just keeping in touch, " she said

But she also recognises the narrow medieval streets often restrict the mobile signal but hopes that planning rules can be overcome for more aerials to be installed.

"In the short term, we could help facilitate better wi-fi hotspots through which calls can be made, " she said."

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

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