Last time I stayed in Whanganui, the host at the motel I stayed at was interested as to why I was there - as he said, Whanganui is a destination. Its not on the main highway north so you have to choose to stop there, but usually because you're heading to do something up country. But Whanganui has been making a name for itself over the last few years through it embracing its digital future, and the build of the ultrafast networks in the city.
The District Council has got right behind the push to make use of these new networks, and they haven't been sitting still. They have for the third year in a row been announced as a SMART 21 Community by the Intelligent Community Forum (see here), the only city in New Zealand to apply and make the grade.
The Council also took the lead in developing a free WIFI network in the central city as well and in recent years InspireNet took over running that network - now part of the aptly named InspireFreeWifi service. The most interesting recent news about this service is that until December last year there was a 100 Mbytes limit per device per month on the free service, but they have recently upped that to 1,000 Mbytes per device per month to cope with users general day to day needs for email and social media as they move about away from home or work. InspireNet also offers paid plans which start at 5,000 Mbytes per device per month for $10 per month.
The Inspirenetfreewifi network isn't only in Whanganui though - it covers a number of lower North Island towns with about 500 Wifi nodes in place. Its just another example of a committed regional ISP looking at how they can work with their local communities.
But Whanganui and InspireNet haven't finished yet - I'm told there's more to come so we'll keep on eye on them.