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Would you like WiFi with that? Mixed views on free connections in the Orange CBD

August 1, 2022

By David Fitzsimons

That’s the dilemma to go before Orange City Council on Tuesday night.

Councillor Steven Peterson is seeking a report into the costs and feasibility of installing free WiFi in the city’s CBD.

He says it can boost security for people and encourage shoppers to "linger" longer around the shops. He notes it is already offered in Bathurst.

“A suggestion of free WiFi in the CBD was made by the Youth Action Committee at the council meeting of July 19,” he said.

“They mentioned a safety benefit of this. I furthermore think it would encourage people to linger in the CBD and thus be more likely to visit local stores.

“Other town centres including Bathurst have similar so could be a case study as to whether this should be done in Orange.”

He suggests making it available in Robertson Park and along Summer Street.

But a staff comment in the report says Bathurst has had only a “relatively low” take up of the service. It said it would be expensive to set up and operate, and would come with security issues.

“Based on the Bathurst model (2018) costs were over $100k to install and in addition there is a yearly licensing cost around $10k and maintenance costs for IT infrastructure,” it says.

It says free WiFi was examined by Orange’s Smarter Cities Working Group two years ago.

“It found the cost of installing, supporting, securing, and maintaining a council-run public system away from our buildings will be very high.

“The logistic for getting power and data to the network devices meant commercial contracts with shop owners would be necessary in many cases or standalone infrastructure installed to provide power and data.”

It is one of six notices of motion proposed by Orange’s councillors for the meeting.

The others include a second bite at putting the words "Wiradjuri Country" into the council addresses. Under deputy mayor Gerald Power’s submission the council address would become: Orange City Council, Wiradjuri Country, 135 Byng Street Orange NSW 2800.

Such a move was knocked back by the previous council last August.

Councillor Power is also seeking a dual name for Mount Canobolas to include its name in Wiradjuri language of Gaanha-Bula.

And the provision of a "sleepbus" to provide better sleeping arrangements for the city’s homeless people has been proposed by councillor Jack Evans.

How sleepbus works. Supplied.

He says sleepbus is a venture operating in several cities including Canberra and Melbourne, where buses provide overnight accommodation.

“While council is somewhat limited in what it can do to remedy these issues, can provide what it describes as a 'band-aid' measure,” Evans says.

“Based on figures provided by it will cost approximately $100,000 to set up a Sleepbus in Orange, then $50,000 per annum for operating costs.

“I propose that council work with local community organisations and businesses to raise funds for the initial set up of a sleepbus, and continue stakeholder/community engagement for assistance with the funding of operating costs.”

According to sleepbus, each bus has up to 20 secure, climate controlled, individual sleep pods in twin cabins, each with a lockable door and toilet; overnight security and CCTV surveillance; under bus storage for belongings; a "cosy" place for companion animals; and a twin cabin for overnight volunteers.

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