BT to create more
Wi-Fi towns

18 May 2005

BT Ireland is planning to make Drogheda Ireland’s first Wi-Fi town and will use the project as a template to create other Wi-Fi towns by working with the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland.

The company yesterday unveiled the rollout of an initial 10 public wide area local network hotspots throughout the Louth town with more to follow as part of a novel plan to facilitate greater worker flexibility and telecommuting by the many technology industry workers and business workers who live and commute from the town. Ultimately this will feed into a greater strategy aimed at making Drogheda a more attractive location for foreign direct investment.

The idea for the Wi-Fi town evolved from an aggressive four-action plan that originated in 2001 when Drogheda Chamber of Commerce commissioned Peter Bacon & Associates to develop an Economic and Spatial Development Plan of the town, which is Ireland’s sixth most densely populated urban area.

The four-year plan identified telecoms infrastructure as a root cause of lack of inward investment and a critical area for improvement. Drogheda’s pique at not being listed in the National Spatial Strategy’s list of towns for development — despite its strategic significance of having a port, sitting alongside the nation’s best road networks, being close to Dublin Airport and having a large population growth forecast — only served to kickstart a number of initiatives such as the Wi-Fi town.

“Drogheda has shown great leadership in setting out a vision for a better future for the town and its inhabitants. This launch is testament to the power of private industry and the public sector joining forces to create a digital knowledge economy that will improve the competitiveness of the region,” commented Mike Maloney, chief operating officer of BT Ireland.

The Wi-Fi town was unveiled at an event attended by the US Ambassador to Ireland, James C Kenny, who cited the initiative as being a prime example of similar initiatives sweeping the US today.

Kenny said the move will give the town — whose population is set to grow from 30,000 to 70,000 people over the next 15 years — a competitive edge in attracting not only the next wave of FDI but also the potential for new business creation driven by entrepreneurs accustomed to working from home.

“It is invigorating to see this happening here in Ireland. The fact that the town is providing these opportunities is an incentive for people to live and work here. In the US, 20pc of the workforce works at home. Research has shown that people who telecommute also have a greater propensity to start their own businesses,” Ambassador Kenny said.

Paul Convery, head of BT OpenZone, told the company is looking to rollout similar Wi-Fi services working with other Chambers of Commerce around the country, using the Drogheda development as a template.

The service installed in Drogheda by BT OpenZone include: the Boyne Valley Hotel and Country Club; Jaffas Cafe; Westcourt Hotel; Drogheda Chamber of Commerce offices; Monks Cafe; two Maxol Service Stations; Star & Crescent; Bridgend Hotel; and the Black Bull Inn.

Pictured were (from left): Paul Convery, head of BT Openzone; James C Kenny, US Ambassador; and Mike Maloney, chief operations officer, BT

By John Kennedy