Deal struck to offer free wi-fi across Perth city centre

© Michael White
Outdoor dining in Perth city centre.

Council chiefs have struck a deal to offer free public wi-fi across Perth city centre as part of a new digital drive to boost footfall and ease traffic problems.

Lamp posts and other structures will be fitted with wireless technology to provide high-speed connections to shop staff, customers, residents and visitors throughout the precinct.

The move will see Perth become one of the first places in Scotland to offer a free-to-use outdoor service, following successful schemes in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Perth and Kinross Council hopes free wi-fi will entice more people into the city centre, increasing footfall for local traders.

And if the trial project proves a hit, it could be rolled out across the rest of the region.

The local authority has signed a £60,800 agreement with Dunfermline-based Rapier Systems to provide the new set-up.

The company installed temporary wi-fi for the city during last year’s Christmas lights switch-on ceremony.

In its brief to the company, a council spokesman said: “The Perth wi-fi project will enable the council to trial the technology and software supporting the scheme prior to further implementation across other areas of Perth and other towns across Perth and Kinross.”

Enterprise and Infrastructure Committee convener John Kellas welcomed the move.

“This will be a tremendous benefit to the city centre,” he said. “It will be particularly helpful for visitors who can use their phones and tablets to get their bearings, while searching for certain shops and places to eat.

“It will be a real boost for people working in the city centre as well.”

The free wi-fi project is the first phase of a new Smart Perth and Kinross Strategy, a wishlist of hi-tech proposals which could improve life in the area.

The masterplan aims to “use date and technology to enhance the delivery of city services, promote economic growth, increase sustainability and engage more actively with citizens”.

Officials are also considering ways of helping traffic flow more freely by providing better control using CCTV, as well as offering people real time public transport information.

Another idea is to “manage our waste more efficiently by using sensors that tell us when litter bins need emptying”.

In a report to councillors, Smart Perth and Kinross Project Officer Graham Pinfield said: “It will take many years before Perth and Kinross becomes a truly ‘smart’ city region, but this initial strategic approach and roadmap will provide a framework to do so.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The provision of public WiFi is one of the priority actions set out in the Perth City Plan which states the ambition to improve our digital connections as part of a range of infrastructure investment projects.

“With the implementation of this project in the city centre we are ensuring that we are projecting a modern, welcoming image for Perth and providing enhanced facilities for both residents and visitors alike.”
She added: “There are a number of infrastructure projects the Council is investing in for the area in line with the Perth City Plan and the Tay Cities Deal, and to also compliment and strengthen the council’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021.”