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A beefed-up free wireless internet (Wi-Fi) network is to become a permanent fixture in Dunedin's Octagon.
The Dunedin City Council has committed $8640 annually to pay for the Wi-Fi network's operation, subject to approval at each year's annual plan hearings, council customer services general manager Grant Strang said.
The network was launched as a trial last year, but the decision meant it would remain as a permanent fixture unless funding was removed at a future annual plan hearing.
The network's capacity had also been boosted to cater for more simultaneous users and extra data use, allowing greater use of online videos and social media in time for Rugby World Cup visitors and the return of cruise-ship passengers next month, he said.
The decision to extend the network was made at last week's council finance, strategy and development committee meeting, after councillors considered a report from Mr Strang showing the trial had exceeded expectations.
A total of 7748 users had registered for the Wi-Fi service during the trial, exceeding a target of 5000 users, and had together delivered 15,000 hits to the council's website, exceeding the target of 10,000 hits, his report said.
The Wi-Fi network was now directing users to the Dunedin Portal, which promoted the city's tourism attractions and products and provided the potential for tangible benefits, Mr Strang said.
The number of sales generated had not been measured, but would be in the future, he said.
Funding to continue the network would come from the council's business information services budget, but staff would also investigate alternative funding sources, councillors decided last week.
Yesterday, Mr Strang said Dunedin became the first city in New Zealand to offer free Wi-Fi in its CBD when it launched its trial last year, although other main centres - including Auckland and Wellington - had followed.
There was "a pretty high degree of confidence that what we're doing is well supported" within the Octagon, he believed.
"Everyone I've spoken to over the last 12 or 14 months, without exception, has been positive [about the service]."
It was also possible the service could be expanded in future, for example by creating Wi-Fi corridors stretching from the Octagon to the city's new stadium, he said.
"But we're not proposing to do that. It's just the Octagon for now."
There had been no reported illegal activity using the council's Wi-Fi system during the trial, or since the introduction of the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011 on September 1.
"It's getting good support and people are playing by the rules," he said.