The Stellenbosch free Wi-Fi project seems to be in disarray, with different stakeholders in the project giving very different versions of what is really going on.
The free Stellenbosch Wi-Fi project was first announced by Stellenbosch mayor Conrad Sidego in February 2012, when he said that they will provide free Wi-Fi Internet access to everyone in the town.
The project – an initiative by Stellenbosch, Mxit, and the University of Stellenbosch – made headlines for making Stellenbosch South Africa’s first “Wi-Fi town”.
However, it was not long before the cracks started to show. In November 2012 news emerged that the project was facing numerous challenges, with the stakeholders not agreeing on the best way to move forward.
At the time only a very small part of the planned Wi-Fi network rollout in the Stellenbosch municipality had been completed.
Some stakeholders alerted MyBroadband in 2012 that virtually no progress had been made on the rollout of this project.
MyBroadband has now received information that the project is basically dead, and that there is no drive to achieve the initial rollout targets.
Some people in the Stellenbosch area reported that they could connect to and use the free Wi-Fi network, while others said that they could not use the service.
When MyBroadband contacted the stakeholders to find out what is happening, it became clear that the project may be in chaos.
One stakeholder who was directly involved in the project said that the project was basically dead because it no longer had the full support of Mxit, which provided free bandwidth.
Mxit disputes this, saying that it is not aware of any problem with the network, and that it continues to supply bandwidth to the network.
“Mxit supply the bandwidth, and are unaware of anything being turned off; Project Isizwe maintains the network relationship with the municipality,” said Ben-Carl Havemann, marketing and communication Manager at Mxit.
However, Project Isizwe denied any involvement with the project. Zahir Khan from Project Isizwe said that they were never involved in the Stellenbosch free Wi-Fi project.
Stellenbosch councillor Valerie Fernandez confirmed that Project Isizwe was not involved in the project, but she could not say exactly who was running the network.
She denied that there were any problems with the project, and said that the network is up and running.
She added that they continue to roll out the project as planned, with more areas coming online all the time.