Anger as public kept in dark over Haringey lamppost free wi-fi deal

Haringey Council has been accused of a “high-handed” approach in its handling of a contract to install routers on town centre lampposts to provide free wi-fi services.

The Labour-run council has negotiated a ten-year deal with telecommunications company Arqiva, which will give limited free wi-fi use, believed to be for half-an-hour, in “high footfall areas” of the borough.

A similar scheme was rolled out in parts of Camden in June, allowing 30 minutes of free wireless internet access every day from smartphones and laptops.

But Haringey’s opposition Liberal Democrat councillors have criticised the plans, calling them “vague”, and have demanded a consultation with residents.

A decision on the contract was due to be made by the cabinet member for finance, Cllr Joe Goldberg, on Wednesday.

Cllr Katherine Reece, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “The way this has been handled so far is typical of the high-handed way the Labour council deal with things.

“They should be making an effort to talk to local people about the wi-fi plans.”

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As part of a cross-borough procurement process, led by Camden Council, Haringey received tenders from three companies.

The proposed deal with Arqiva will generate a share “of the income generated from any equipment installed”, which a council report says amounts to £478,000 over a decade.

But it has refused to say what charges there will be for residents once the free wi-fi period runs out or where the routers will be placed.

A Haringey Council spokesman said further details will be confirmed once the contract is finalised.

He said consultation with residents is not required because “this is a standard procurement that will deliver a free offer for residents”.

A report said there is no cost to the council of the scheme and that routers will be placed on other “council-owned assets” including in open spaces.

But Sarah Purdy, of Ringwood Avenue, Muswell Hill, said: “They haven’t consulted and we don’t want this.

“Everyone has internet connections, why do they want it on the street?”

Arqiva will be responsible for maintaining the networking equipment and will have to get planning approval to install routers, according to the report.

A council spokesman said: “The contract is an opportunity to generate income for other council services and to help us deliver on our commitment to make Haringey’s town centres successful and connected with thriving local economies.”