When is a CCTV camera not a privacy violating public safety guaranteeing device? When it’s also a public WiFi hotspot. 

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has unveiled its plans for how the Urban Broadband Fund (UBF) should be spent on the UK’s Super Connected Cities. 

One of the options up for discussion is the use of ‘street furniture,’ things like lamp posts, traffic lights and CCTV cameras. The DCMS policy paper Super-Connected Cities programme: options for wireless connectivity outlines three areas where city officials could invest in setting up public WiFi hotspots. 

CCTV cameras and lamposts to double as WiFi hotspots: Urban Broadband Fund plans revealed
Spy-Fi: CCTV cameras could double as wireless hotspots

Read Recombu Digital's guide to Super-Connected Cities and the Urban Broadband FundThe Wireless Concession Contract plan would see city officials let an ISP install their equipment on a public asset to act as a WiFi hotspot. The operator would then be able to collect ‘fees and revenues’ in return, though it’s not clear if this means council tax money would go indirectly into ISPs pockets or not.

According to the DCMS, 21 of the UK’s 22 Super Connected Cities are in favour of setting up a wireless concession contract of some form. 

As well as turning street furniture into WiFi hotspots, UBF money can also be spent on setting up hotspots in libraries, council offices, museums and other local points of interest. Money could also be spent setting up WiFi hotspots in public transport facilities.

Edinburgh town elders first alerted us to this sea change when we learned of plans to install WiFi hotspots in trams. 

Originally, the plan for Super Connected Cities was that money would be spent on plugging urban not-spots in the UK’s big cities as well as setting up public WiFi networks. This was kicked to the kerb thanks to regulatory intervention from Europe. Local businesses will instead be able to apply for vouchers which will cover some of the cost of having fibre broadband installed. While this will be a great boon for small enterprises and start-ups, it’s less good news for those living in urban areas where decent broadband still isn’t a reality.

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