Middlemarch gets Wi-Fi hot spot

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Surf's up . . . Unifone managing director Travis Baird, of Dunedin, surfs the internet for the first time using a new Wi-Fi hot spot in Middlemarch last week. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

All aboard.

A derailed project to get a Wi-Fi hot spot at Middlemarch Railway Station has been picked up, “fast-tracked” and the hot spot went live last week.

After a Taieri Times story last month on Chorus withdrawing from a project to install a hot spot, because of the cost of providing another VDSL broadband connection to the town, Dunedin internet service company Unifone reshuffled its priorities to make it happen.

Unifone managing director Travis Baird said Unifone “fast-tracked” work to install a hot spot using its own network and infrastructure.

The hot spot went live last week.

“There’s a desperate need for it right now, so we squeezed the project in.”

To provide a Wi-Fi hot spot, a signal was transmitting from a repeater Unifone installed below a ridgeline on the Rock and Pillar Range, north of Middlemarch.

The repeater was originally scheduled to be installed later this year.

From the repeater on the range, a signal was beamed to access points on several buildings in Snow Ave, including a station building and the Strath Taieri Hotel, boosting the signal and making Wi-Fi available anywhere in the street.

The internet speed from the hot spot was fast enough to “easily” stream video.

The repeater on the range was installed using funding Unifone secured from the Government’s rural broadband expansion initiative.

Unifone would be paid $10,000 by the Strath Taieri Community Board, which was given the money by the GigCity Community Fund to get a hot spot installed.

Unifone would waive the usual monthly fee for the hot spot, he said.

Extra capacity in the repeater on the range would allow people in the Middlemarch to get a broadband connection by becoming Unifone customers.

To get connected, Unifone would install an access point on houses or businesses of new customers.

Board member Norma Emerson, who is leading the project for the board, said she was “elated” Unifone had provided a solution to get a hot spot installed.

“Unifone did great coming to the party.”

People could access two gigabytes of data per device a day via the hot spot, she said.