Research Program

Australian local governments have lagged behind many of their international counterparts in the provision of local public broadband. Mirroring this lack of provision, there has been little policy and academic debate in Australia on local broadband interventions by government or community groups. Instead, discussion of digital connectivity has been concentrated at the national level and recently monopolised by intense debate about the federal government’s rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN). A recent surge of investment by Australian local authorities in public WiFi networks, either on a ‘permanent’ or trial basis, suggests that the landscape of provision may be shifting and highlights the need for independent research to examine and assess the value of this development.

This interdisciplinary research program examines the policy, economic, technological and social dimensions surrounding the introduction of public Wi-Fi networks in Australian cities. It aims to:

  • Identify and describe public WiFi provision in Australia; including past, present and anticipated activity
  • map out relevant local and international policy debates that have underpinned public WiFi investment
  • examine path-breaking developments in public WiFi provision overseas and suggest which forms of provision might be most effectively adopted in Australia
  • assess the public value of a selection of local public WiFi developments through case-study research

The Team

Dr Ian McShane is a research associate of the CCI and a senior research fellow in the Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University. He writes on educational and cultural policy, community infrastructure, and the digital economy.

Professor Jason Potts is a centre fellow in the CCI and professor in the RMIT School of Economics, Finance and Marketing. He is an evolutionary economist specialising in the economics of innovation and growth through technological and institutional change. He has developed the analytic basis for the use of complex systems theory and population dynamics in modelling evolutionary economic processes. His current work focuses on the economics of creativity. With Kurt Dopfer he edited the recently published volume The New Evolutionary Economics.

Dr Mark Gregory is a senior telecommunications and network engineering academic in the RMIT School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He conducts research in the areas of cyber-security, fibre network design and operation, wireless networks and technical risk. Mark is a Fellow of the Institute of Engineers Australia and a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. With David Glance he recently published the volume Security and the Networked Society.

Dr Chris Wilson is a research associate of the CCI and member of the Centre for Urban Research and Centre for Communication, Politics and Culture, RMIT University. His research focuses on communication infrastructure provision, its underlying social, technological, economic and governmental determinants, and downstream impact on cultural production and innovation.

Emeritus Professor Margaret Jackson is the RMIT Professor of Computer Law. She conducts research in the areas of computer law, protection of information, data protection and privacy, and copyright. Margaret is a member of the Co-operative Research Centre for Smart Internet Technology. With Marita Shelly she recently published the volume  Electronic Information and the Law.

Professor Catherine Middleton is the Canada Research Chair in Communication Technologies in the Information Society. She is an expert on North American media and communication policy and an important contributor to policy discussion and development in the UK and Australia. Fixed and wireless broadband networks have been a key focus in her research. In the mid-2000s she led one of the most comprehensive studies of public WiFi network investment conducted to date – the Community Wireless Infrastructure Research Project. With Jyoti Choudrie she edited the recently published volume Management of broadband technology and innovation policy, deployment, and use.

Professor Denise Meredyth is a chief investigator of the CCI and professor in the College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University. Her research interests include governance and civic participation, education and social policy, and digital inclusion.

Mr Viktor Grechyn is currently undertaking a doctoral research project on public Wi-Fi in Australia supervised by Dr Ian McShane and Professor Jason Potts.

Contact Us

To inquire about the project please contact us at: publicwifiaustralia@gmail.com

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