Free broadband internet access at a number of locations in Gozo
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Gozitans can have full broadband internet access for free at a number of Local Councils, Public Libraries, schools, and NGO’s with a social mission throughout Gozo thanks to Vodafone Malta and the “Digital Citizenship Developed on Wireless Network in Geographically Isolated Areas (WDCNET)” project.
This project was part-financed by the EU’s CIP INTERREG IIIB ARCHIMED, part of the Structural Funds programme for Malta 2004-2006. Agreement with the respective beneficiaries in Gozo has been settled for a year with possible extensions following this period.
Vodafone Malta said it is the first company in Malta providing its internet service for free to the general public.
The lead partner of the transnational project was the Comunità Montana del Gargano of the Puglia region in Italy. Other partners were from Greece and Egypt, while the Maltese partner was the Fondazzjoni Temi Zammit.
A brief of the project was given by Vodafone Malta CEO, Inaki Berroeta to Dr Austin Gatt, Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Communications. The aims of the project are to give citizens of the geographically isolated areas an opportunity to use innovative ICT; to support their participative use of public services and to overcome social exclusion compounded by a society divided into the information-rich (urban area) and the information-poor (rural area).
Overall objectives of the project are to link all public services suppliers (municipalities, schools, welfare, libraries) in rural, mountainous and island territories and the implementation of an E-Democracy Portal allowing citizens to take part in decision-making processes of local government and in giving feedback on common themes and arguments under discussion.
For the past months, Vodafone Malta said it has invested heavily in its deployment procedure in Gozo. “We believe Malta and Gozo suffer from no digital divide but having free internet access in local councils is surely going down well with the general public. WiMAX provides fast internet connections with absolutely no wires. There are people who still don’t know that this service does not entail drilling holes in walls for the passing of wires and cables as it comes in wireless format for the convenience of our customers. Through our initiative, the general public can now experience this innovative technology,” said Inaki Berroeta CEO at Vodafone Malta.
The beneficiary sites, including eight local councils in Gozo, are equipped with a Vodafone @home 2Mbit/sec broadband internet connection and have a monthly download limit of 20 Gbytes, all of this for free. The local councils are Rabat (Victoria), Nadur, San Lawrenz, Qala, Gharb, Munxar, Sannat, and Xaghra.
Vodafone Malta said it is the first and only local mobile operator to date that was awarded a WiMAX licence and actually rolled out the service. Fixed WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is a technology aimed at providing high-speed wireless broadband and Voice over IP services to home and business consumers and connecting multiple internet users. It is an evolving standard for point-to-multipoint wireless networking and it works for the last mile in the same way that Wi-Fi hotspots work for the last one hundred feet of networking within a building or a home.