TRADERS have welcomed the launch of free Wi-Fi internet access in a town which is dependent on attracting tourists.
The service in Thirsk town centre has been created in a joint project by Thirsk-based firm Telecom Yorkshire, Thirsk and District Business Association. Thirsk Tourist Information Centre and Hambleton District Council.
Wi-Fi, or local area wireless technology, will enable people with electronic devices to exchange data or connect to the internet using radio waves.
Wi-Fi had already been available in a number of businesses, such as cafes in the market square, but the project organisers said it hoped its availability across the town centre would make it a more attractive destination for both shoppers and visitors.
District council leader Councillor Mark Robson said the authority had provided £1,400 to install the equipment required for the network which it has been trialled and tested over the last few weeks.
Thirsk has followed Bedale in receiving the service, and it is expected it to be launched in Northallerton, Stokesley and Easingwold in the coming months.
Cllr Robson said: “Shoppers and visitors increasingly want to connect to the internet and some surveys show that this can affect people’s choice of shopping destination.
“Having Wi-Fi complementing the offer of our attractive towns and quality independent retail offer can only help the high streets’ fortunes.”
Cllr Robson said the authority, which has recently undertaken a study of the area’s economy, was examining other projects to support high street businesses.
He added: “This will give the businesses the opportunity to promote themselves, but also for events and activities in the town to publicise through this partnership in Thirsk.”
Andrew Newton, of Telecom Yorkshire said the network would provide access to high-speed internet as well as valuable resources on the Visit Thirsk website with details for residents and visitors about the community and what is going on.
Jill Miller, business association secretary, added: “Working together will benefit the whole town and showcase what Thirsk has to offer.
“I’m glad Hambleton District Council has recognised the importance of our town centre and this will provide another advantage to compete in what remain challenging times for independent businesses.”
Visitors to Thirsk will be asked to sign up to the network on first accessing it, to ensure it is used appropriately.
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