Wellington will have free access to high-speed wireless internet on the waterfront from December. And the city council hopes to make free wi-fi a permanent fixture in the central business district in time for next year's Rugby World Cup. From December, anyone with an internet-capable smart phone, iPad or laptop computer will be able to connect free of charge between Queens Wharf and Te Papa within range of a waterfront server in the NZX building. The initiative is the brainchild of Trade Me and is being paid for by the online auction company, in association with the council. Trade Me head of operations Mike O'Donnell said the move was a New Zealand first. Between 500 and 1000 waterfront-goers are expected to log on daily, although actual numbers would depend on the weather and waterfront events. Users would be logged out automatically after two hours to prevent commercial users pirating the free network, but individuals could then log on again manually. Although ordinary data files could be downloaded, "peer-to-peer" file-sharing of larger data files would not be allowed. The network was expected to be especially popular during summer and the World Cup. Trade Me chief executive Jon Macdonald said the idea was to give back to the city that had given rise to the company's success. "We firmly believe Wellington is the internet capital of New Zealand, and helping people connect to the web in and around the waterfront is a good fit for us." The free network's future would be reviewed after a year, depending on its success and uptake. Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast said moves were already under way to expand the free wi-fi initiative to the city centre — subject to costs associated with the project. If successful, Wellington would be among the world's first cities to offer residents and visitors free downtown wi-fi access. The council was calling for expressions of interest to provide the service permanently around the Golden Mile. A council graphic shows the proposed coverage stretches from Westpac Stadium to the Embassy end of Courtenay Place. Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive David Perks said the initiative would make it easier for visitors to make the most of the city and tell others about it. "Being able to access free wi-fi on the waterfront will mean our visitors can not only freely access information about where to go and what to do in the city, they can post photos of the picturesque harbour, public art and other attractions to their friends, families and digital networks throughout the world."
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