Work to extend free wifi service now underway

Mayor James Palmer with Air Broadband team handling Ely Wifi project

Combined authority mayor James Palmer with the team at Air Broadband which has started work on improving free wifi coverage in East Cambridgeshire. - Credit: Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority

New equipment will be installed on the roof of Ely Cathedral and Soham church to improve East Cambridgeshire’s free wifi service.

Coverage is currently available in a trial area around the Market Square, Market Street, the High Street and Fore Hill in Ely.

This will extend to wider areas including the area around the station, Back Hill, Broad Street, Riverside, Jubilee Gardens, Waterside and various other parts of the city centre.

Ely Cathedral. East Cambridgeshire District Council has outlined how it is making progress to achiev

Upgraded equipment for the project will be installed on the roof of Ely Cathedral (pictured) and Soham church. - Credit: PA

In Soham, the church will carry hardware for the network to extend from High Street out to Clay Street, Fountain Road, Station Road and towards the new railway station.

Work started today (Tuesday) and is being funded by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

In November 2020, a £195,000 grant was approved for the scheme in Ely and a further £95,000 was allocated to Soham.

As well as improving coverage, the project also aims to boost internet speeds and reliability when the works are completed by July 2021.

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Combined authority mayor James Palmer said: “Connectivity and coverage are the name of the game and it’s a priority to end notspots, end iffy wifi, and get the whole of Cambridgeshire linked in with highspeed broadband that works for everyone.

“A thousand years on, I love the fact that our eleventh century cathedral is still at the hub, helping our 21st century Ely to reinvent itself for the future.”

He added: “More people now work or do lessons at home, or shop from home, more local businesses have seen the value of operating online.

“Digital infrastructure is a necessity, as essential to modern life as electricity or drains, and a must for the local economy.”

East Cambridgeshire District Council is delivering the project on behalf of the combined authority.

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Air Broadband, based in Cambridge, is carrying out the work.

When complete, the “Ely and Soham Free Wifi” identifier will switch to “CambWifi”.

Cllr Anna Bailey, Leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: "The pandemic has opened up our eyes to the need for digital inclusivity and this is one of the projects which we as a council are backing to act on this.

“I look forward to when the work is completed and when residents can start to benefit from this service.”