Auckland cafes unhappy with free wi-fi

KELLY DENNETT
Last updated 10:06 28/06/2013
Cafe Wifi

FREE INTERNET: West Auckland users of internet capable devices can access Telecom wi-fi free of charge.

Cafe Wifi
WI-FI WOES: Titirangi resident Ryan McCallum says technology can have an isolating effect and cafe operators have mixed expectations about free wi-fi.

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The arrival of free wi-fi hotspots in West Auckland has been met with mixed reactions from members of the community.

Telecom introduced 16 wi-fi access points in Titirangi, Oratia, Henderson, Glen Eden, Avondale, Te Atatu and Massey.

The service has been introduced through Telecom telephone booths to test service capability in the area.

It's an expansion of a scheme introduced over summer which saw some coastal spots in Auckland including Piha and Muriwai receive a free wi-fi signal.

It allows people with internet-enabled portable devices to surf the internet so long as they are within 100m of the wi-fi access point.

But some local businesses are unhappy about customers having access to internet on their premises.

Titirangi's Hardware Cafe and Fringe Cafe are within the 100m radius of the access point on Titirangi Rd.

Neither cafe offers free wi-fi to customers and are wary of how it will impact on business.

Fringe Cafe Manager Lucia Tanupo says the cafe has 24 tables which can be held up by people using the internet.

"It's good for a big cafe but not here. We get quite busy during the day and we do have a few customers who sit here all day long on their laptops and all they buy is a coffee and a muffin."

But there are benefits to the free service according to Carol Dewes .

The Laingholm resident visits Titirangi frequently and says a free wi-fi connection is more beneficial for non-residents.

"It's good for visitors and tourists passing through. Now that I know it's here I'll use it if I need it."

Titirangi resident Ryan McCallum says while increased wi-fi signals promote information sharing it detracts from social interaction.

"It makes me really sad when I see young people walking down the street with their heads buried in their phone."

Takahe restaurant and bar director Tate Smeele already offers free wi-fi for customers and says it's more likely to get people through the door.

He uses social media to promote his business and finds his customers are likely to post photos and positive comments online while they're visiting.

The locations chosen for the free wi-fi service were based on which areas would receive the most foot traffic and a higher usage, a Telecom spokesperson says.

The trial will determine whether public wi-fi may be made available on a permanent basis.

Telecom encourage the public to submit feedback on the service to media@telecom.co.nz or on the Telecom Facebook and Twitter pages.

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- Western Leader

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