Lampposts will provide free broadband internet across Islington

Lampposts could be used to provide free internet access in the streets of Islington.

Wireless networking equipment is likely to be attached to street furniture in the borough’s busy town centres to provide high speed web access to people with smartphones and other devices for free.

Islington Council would make money out of the scheme, which is expected to be rubber-stamped at a meeting of the executive tonight (Thursday), because the network provider will have to pay for the privilege of using lampposts to mount its transmitters. The council believes it could earn as much as �80,000 per year.

The council will put the contract out to tender, but the provider is likely to be a major mobile phone network, which would stand to benefit because it can use the equipment to boost coverage and make money through advertising on the free wi-fi service. People would not be able to connect to the network from indoors, because the signal would not be strong enough to penetrate through walls.

Cllr Richard Greening, Islington Council’s executive member for finance, said: “Essentially we’re renting our lampposts to network providers, and we will be going through a procurement process for people to offer us cash for that.

“We anticipate they are likely to be interested in areas such as the Angel, Upper Street and Holloway Road, but it would be key to ensure that other less affluent areas with high footfall, such as Finsbury Park and Archway, are also covered.

“It’s too early to make a commitment on timescale, but we would like to see this in place in a year’s time.”

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Cllr Greening added that the council used to offer free wi-fi in Upper Street under a scheme called StreetNet, but that was scrapped to save funds. The new scheme would come at no cost to the taxpayer.