A free public wi-fi service across North Yorkshire which has clocked more than 860,000 users since its launch has secured official recognition for providing safe connections.
A total of 20 towns in the county which offer the free public access wi-fi service are guaranteeing users a safe experience after being certified under the national Friendly Wi-Fi scheme.
Launched by the Government in 2013, the Friendly Wi-Fi symbol tells users that the services are meeting agreed filtering standards by removing inappropriate content, including indecent images and advertisements.
Although the system to block such content has been in place since the introduction of the free wi-fi service, the county can now display the easily recognised symbol around its town centres to provide public assurance that the network is independently certified.
Executive member for broadband and mobile telephony, Cllr Greg White, said: “We are proud to have met the Government-initiated safe certification to protect all users who connect to the free wi-fi service when visiting our town centres.
“We recognise that many families and young adults use the service, so this gives parents confidence that it is filtered and safe. Since the roll-out was completed, we have seen high usage across the 20 towns, so we hope the benefits will be felt for years to come.”
The director of Friendly Wi-Fi, Bev Smith, said: “We are thrilled that North Yorkshire County Council has taken the proactive decision to become Friendly Wi-Fi certified. It demonstrates the passion to provide a safe and comfortable wi-fi experience for all and shows the commitment to ensure best practice is in place to protect their communities and visitors.
“They are demonstrating that they are helping to support safe wi-fi to be provided across any town or city and to keep children and young adults protected online.”
In partnership with NYnet, we have introduced free public access wi-fi in market towns across the county. It is hoped that the project will support economic recovery and growth for communities and businesses by drawing people back into town centres as a destination.
The first towns to have the free connections introduced was Northallerton and Leyburn in June 2021. Other towns to be included in the roll-out, which was completed in March 2022, include Scarborough, Selby and Catterick.
Harrogate Borough Council also included £300,000 to provide extra coverage for Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon.
Northallerton Town Council welcome the official recognition of safe wi-fi in Northallerton through the Friendly Wi-Fi certification scheme, and said it will “increase the attractiveness of the county town for visitors”.
A £3.6 million investment for the county-wide project was awarded by the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership as part of its allocation from the Government’s Getting Building Fund.
David Dickson, the chairman of the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership Infrastructure and Joint Assets Board, said: “We’re striving for a greener, fairer and stronger economy in our region and improved digital connectivity is key in helping us get there. The Y&NY LEP were delighted to support digital infrastructure improvements and it’s great news that services have achieved this important safety standard.”