A YEAR has passed since Highworth started to receive free wireless internet access in a council-backed scheme.

But 12 months down the line and how successful has the pilot project been?

The council wants to see the whole of Swindon covered by a wi-fi mesh eventually, enabling anyone to get up to two hours free internet access a day.

But councillors admit that even the pilot project has not been fully completed yet.

Some residents say coverage is still patchy at best and no-one seems keen to disclose exactly how many customers are paying for the enhanced connection package.

Highworth resident James Douglas, 26, said: “I’ve tried to log on to it a few times but I can never get a connection.

“You have to log on and register some details but it never seems to get past that page.

“That was in Highworth High Street. Then I tried logging on at home but my computer doesn’t even pick up the signal, despite there being several routers on lamp posts in my street.”

The whole scheme has been embroiled in controversy, ever since the council brokered a deal behind closed doors with entrepreneur Rikki Hunt.

A new company, Digital City UK, was formed between Mr Hunt, the council and technical experts aQovia, and the council handed over a £450,000 loan to the business to kickstart the project.

It all led to accusations the council was being underhand, something it was cleared of when auditors signed off the deal in March.

In the meantime the scheme was delayed and deadlines were missed.

Despite that, deputy leader of the council, Coun Garry Perkins is optimistic about the future and says the priority now is to get businesses paying for the enhanced connection packages.

“It didn’t go to plan due to lots of reasons, not least it being kicked around by the scrutiny committee until May,” he said.

“That affected the timescale and business interest in it, because no-one wants to be associated with a political hot potato.”

But the council is still going ahead with its plan to introduce the scheme, and intends to extend it to the town centre next.

“We still believe the business is very solid for the town and the business itself,” said Coun Perkins.

“ And we hope a large part of the town will be completed by this time next year.

“I am very upbeat about the whole project. We have learnt an awful lot about the whole project over the last year and now it’s just a question of getting business involvement.”

The Adver was unable to contact Rikki Hunt for a comment.