The Department of Human Services has completed an almost decade-long project to bring free wi-fi to its extensive network of Centrelink offices around Australia.
The department flicked the switch on the network at the last of its 926 service centres, agents and access points across the country earlier this month.
DHS first revealed plans to offer the service at Centrelink service centres in a tender for wireless LAN infrastructure back in 2010.
At that time DHS planned to deploy the network at 389 of its offices within just six months of awarding the contract to the successful networking provider, as reported by Computerworld.
But it would take another seven years for the department to begin deploying the the network, after piloting free wi-fi at a limited number of service centres during the 2016-17 financial year.
A spokesperson told iTnews that “the department began its rollout of free wi-fi in all Centrelink sites in October 2017”. This was despite first having planned to complete the rollout at all Centrelink site by that time.
Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation Michael Keenan said major connectivity upgrades had preceded the rollout to provide “reliable and efficient access to services, whether they’re in Broome, Ballarat or Burnie”.
He said this had involved installing "satellite-based internet services at some locations" from Centrelink's telco Telstra.
A spokesperson said Telstra also provides the wireless LAN infrastructure tendered for in 2010.
Part of DHS reasoning for introducing free wi-fi is to facilitate Centrelink’s shift to digital services channels, while avoiding the need to provide kiosks for welfare recipients to complete interactions.
But - at least for now - the service will be restricted to accessing government services and other necessary services like banking and email, much to the disappointment of Insta and Candy Crush addicts.
“The free wi-fi network allows customers to download and use government apps and provides access to a range of other approved online services including banking, job searches, community support, education and training,” Keenan said in a statement earlier this month.
“Additionally, all of our Service Centres and Agents have experienced staff on hand to walk people through how to use the department’s digital services, or provide support and assistance with more complex issues that cannot be resolved easily online.”