Free wi-fi could be added to city taxi fleet

Taxi driver Kevin Wood visits the Evening News website. Picture: Toby Wiliams

Taxi driver Kevin Wood visits the Evening News website. Picture: Toby Wiliams

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CITY taxis are to become free wifi hot spots after the plan was given the green light by licensing chiefs.

The bill for the service which will provide passengers with free internet access will be paid for by a range of sponsors and leading taxi advertising firm Ubiquitous.

A 15-second advert will be displayed every 15 minutes but passengers will not have to watch the full promo.

It is understood that adult websites and other harmful content will be blocked and cabs offering the service will show an approved blue sticker.

A similar scheme was launched in London back in March with firms such as Microsoft, Heathrow and Styloko footing the bill.

Ubiquitous believe it to be a “win-win” for passengers and drivers as cabbies will also be able to access free wifi.

Drivers have suffered ballooning mobile data charges recently because of the growing popularity of taxi apps such as Hailo and electronic cashless payments.

Ubiquitous director Micky Harris said: “Edinburgh is a key location for brands looking to invest in taxi advertising, and many are keen for us to secure this strategically important city, so we are delighted to receive acknowledgment from Edinburgh’s licensing team that approval has been granted.

“Free wifi is a win-win for all involved – busy people will be able to stay connected more easily, brands will gain kudos for providing a vital service for free and the taxi drivers themselves will also get to hook up to the wifi throughout the day.”

Tony Kenmuir, boss of Capital firm Central Taxis, who has sought to equip his 445-strong fleet with wifi, welcomed the proposal but remained wary of the cost implications.

He said: “I’ve looked into this but the data costs were too much. If they are genuinely providing free unlimited data then I’ll sign up straight away.

“I’m slightly cynical about the cost of it given you’ll have taxi drivers parked up in lay-bys and ranks watching TV and internet on their phones and iPads.

“However, if big companies want to come in and pay for it then I’m sure it will be a success.”

The proposal was passed at yesterday’s sitting of the committee on condition that all applications are submitted prior to the installation of equipment.

Also, the equipment shall not be used to breach the privacy of a passenger nor shall any information or data collected by the equipment be disseminated without the express knowledge and permission of the user.

Committee convener Councillor Gavin Barrie said: “The committee has agreed that wifi technology may be installed in private hire vehicles and taxis licensed by the council, provided that they meet the necessary criteria.

“For the first time, Edinburgh taxi and private hire firms and owners can now apply to have the technology in their vehicles and a number have expressed an interest.”