ADVER readers have given a mixed reaction to Swindon’s wi-fi scheme in our exclusive online poll.

Almost 100 people voiced their opinions on the project, which will see Swindon become the first town to offer free wireless internet.

Responses ranged from enthusiastic praise to dismay that Swindon Council has loaned £450,000 for the scheme while proposing cuts to services affecting old and vulnerable residents to balance its budget.

Out of 98 readers who registered their comments in the Adver’s survey, 50 said they wanted the initiative to go ahead, 46 were against and two had not decided.

The issue of health risks was similarly divisive, with a relatively even split over those concerned by the possible implications and those reassured by Government advice that wi-fi networks are not harmful to health.

Opinions varied from one North Swindon resident, who called the scheme “brilliant – forward thinking and good for business” to a housewife from Pinehurst, who said “it’s shocking to think that they have cut money from essential services like Dial A Ride and yet given all this money to something that is not an essential service.”

The scheme – which will mean two hours free internet a day for residents who sign up – was officially launched in Highworth last week. It is being delivered by Digital City City UK, which is made up of Swindon Council, IT company aQovia and Rikki Hunt, chair of the Swindon Strategic Economic Partnership.

Mr Hunt said he took on board the criticisms but was still impressed by the support Swindon residents have shown.

He said: “We have still got a lot of work to do but it’s good that a debate is being had. The number of people who have actually had the chance to try the service out is still very few, so the more people who experience it the more feedback we will get. It won’t be fully functional in Highworth until probably about January 15. After that we will have a better idea.”

Mr Hunt dismissed comments that the wi-fi network would not be secure.

He said: “Everyone will need a password just like any other network so there is no truth in that.”

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