Ah, Swindon, that jewel of middle England. Home-town of the great British band XTC, the Great Western Railway and, errr, hmmm… a cheap designer outlet centre.

Swindon doesn’t need to be put on the map, because there it is, next to the M4. But today Swindon has attracted attention because a new technological marvel… being able to access the Internet without a network cable. Actually I’m being facetious because many of us can do that already (you probably are reading this with no ethernet involved). The big news about Swindon is that it’s the location for a new free public wi-fi service, aptly named Signal – I wonder if that name will bite them on the backside when Swindonites can’t get a signal. Anyway, the BBC news article provides us with an explanation…

Wireless internet allows computer users to access the internet without the need for wired connection to phone lines.

Well, thank goodness they cleared up that mystery. Signal will work like this… you can sign up and then roam around the supported areas of town maintaining your Internet connection. To start with it’ll be a small area of coverage (in Highworth) but eventually they’ll deploy 1,400 access points around the city. The service will be free for registered users, although they’ll have to pay for upgrades to higher speeds.

This is a great idea – we’re living in a world of wi-fi enabled iPods, Internet tablets (like the Archos 5, and even my older 605) and netbooks. People just need fairly basic access when they’re out and about in a town centre – it doesn’t need to be high-speed, that type of Internet interaction can be done at home. Mrs A has just given a nod of approval to the idea, frustrated as she is that she can only use the wi-fi on her iPod touch inside Castle Adams (don’t comment saying “buy her an iPhone”, we’ve had that conversation).

So, Surrey Heath Borough Council… you take £260 from me ten months of the year, when is free wi-fi coming to the sprawling metropolis of Camberley?

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