Government minister Stephen Timms opened today's Wi-Fi & 3G summit in London by listing the achievements of the "light touch regulatory policy" he's been able to put in place since taking over at the Department - and confirmed that his plan to put an open Wi-Fi hotspot in every public library was "going ahead".
"I'm very keen on the idea that every public library should be a Wi-Fi hotspot," he said. "Already 90 per cent have broadband, and my department is now working up that idea."
Timms strongly supported the future of 3G, and said that it would be "complementary" to Wi-Fi.
He said: "A few months, Brian McBride, CEO of T-Mobile and I shared a platform; he's not only a leader in mobile data, but also a leader of Wi-Fi deployment - and he was clear that the hotspot business isn't a fully formed business model. But he also says first, that it's complementary to 3G; and second, it's a technology and a business which nobody in mobile industries can afford to ignore."
The public library initiative was first reported by the British Council in September.
Their report said: "The new, three-year action plan was launched at the Public Library Authority conference and includes a range of projects and programmes covering the three key development themes for public libraries."
The three key areas are:
Books, reading and learning Knowledge, skills and information are at the heart of economic and social life
Digital citizenship Libraries are providing access to vastly increased information via the Internet. This strand will build on the success of the People's Network and develop national services for information, learning and reading. enabling libraries to play a full and active role in delivering e-Government
Community and civic values Libraries are safe, welcoming, neutral spaces open to all the community. They are particularly well-placed to engage hard-to-reach groups. Libraries will develop their role in delivering a wide range of relevant services to help address social exclusion.
Timms said that the past year had seen key steps in building the future of wireless in the UK. "The Communications Bill has reached the statute book, we've made a lot more spectrum available for Wi-Fi, and despite a lot of negative comment about 3G and the difficulties, it's important to recall that it is here."
Timms said that on his way to London, he traveled on the overnight ferry from Aberdeen to Shetland. "On the ferry, I was able to download the ITN news bulletin and catch up with the day's events," he said. "Those who have been in the industry for a long time will remember the early experience of GSM; when there were widespread complaints about unreliable coverage, poor take-up." And Timms added: "I would remind you of a useful adage: 'If there aren't problems, the technology isn't advanced enough'!"
He concluded: "I was particularly interested to hear from Intel that there are now more hotspots in the UK than in the whole of the rest of Europe altogether."
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