More than 860,000 users have joined free public wi-fi services which block inappropriate content in towns across North Yorkshire, which has now given official recognition by the government.

Twenty towns across the county including Northallerton, Leyburn, Catterick, Stokesley and Richmond, which offer the free public access wi-fi service, are guaranteeing users a safe experience after being certified under the national Friendly Wi-Fi scheme.

Launched by the Government in 2013, the Friendly Wi-Fi symbol tells users that the services are meeting agreed filtering standards by removing inappropriate content, including indecent images and advertisements. The system to block such content has been in place since the free wi-fi service was brought in but the county can now display the symbol around town centres to assure people the network is independently certified.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for broadband and mobiles, Cllr Greg White said: “We are proud to have met the Government-initiated safe certification to protect all users who connect to the free wi-fi service when visiting our town centres. We recognise that many families and young adults use the service, so this gives parents confidence that it is filtered and safe. Since the roll-out was completed, we have seen high usage across the 20 towns, so we hope the benefits will be felt for years to come.”

The York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership ploughed in £3.6m for the county-wide project, part of an allocation from the Government’s Getting Building Fund. David Dickson, chairman of the partnership’s Infrastructure and Joint Assets Board, said: “We’re striving for a greener, fairer and stronger economy in our region and improved digital connectivity is key in helping us get there. The Y&NY LEP were delighted to support digital infrastructure improvements and it’s great news that services have achieved this important safety standard.”

Director of Friendly Wi-Fi, Bev Smith added: “We are thrilled that North Yorkshire County Council took the proactive decision to become Friendly Wi-Fi certified. It demonstrates the passion to provide a safe and comfortable wi-fi experience for all and shows the commitment to ensure best practice is in place to protect their communities and visitors. They are demonstrating that they are helping to support safe wi-fi to be provided across any town or city and to keep children and young adults protected online.”

North Yorkshire County Council said in partnership with the broadband service NYNet it has introduced the free public access wi-fi in market towns to help support economic recovery and growth for communities and businesses by drawing people back into town centres as a destination.