Vancouver could have free public WiFi by Spring 2015

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Free public WiFi in the works by the City of Vancouver, and the rollout could begin as soon as Spring 2015.

Getting WiFi set up in designated city facilities and public spaces is something Vancouver is keenly interested in accomplishing, in part because so many locals and tourists use mobile computing and smartphones while out and about, and also because broadening the reach of WiFi access helps the city better connect with the public and promotes economic development.

Jessie Adcock serves as the Chief Digital Officer for the City of Vancouver. Adcock explains that the City has put out a call for bids, and those submissions will be available for the evaluation by the City after January 30, 2015. The City is looking for a partnership with external parties that gets the WiFi up at no cost to either the City or the general public.

A motion to implement a wider offering of free WiFi was made in April. Free WiFi was also part of the Digital Strategy created in April 2013 for Vancouver; Adcock was hired in September as part of that overall Strategy.

In addition to an estimated 45 recreation venues, free public WiFi is anticipated for places like outside Canada Place and along portions of Granville Street. Those venues include 27 community centres, as well as other public locations like golf courses, pools, and marinas.

Adcock acknowledges getting WiFi installed and working in so many places does present a number of logistical issues, however “capable and competent partners with expertise in Public WiFi provision will limit the number and severity of issues.”

Bidders are being asked to outline what, if any, promotion or advertising is part of their proposal. Adcocks notes the “City has a variety of policies and standards that apply to branding/advertising.”

The goal is to select a bid and have the program running by spring.

Should the initial implementation be a success, Adcock confirms there could very well be a second phase or expansion of the program. “The city has a number of locations where public WiFi could be delivered. That said, additional locations will need to balance the interests of the City, any potential partner or partners, and demand for Public WiFi from the public,” Adcock explains.

Commuters may be wondering if the City has any influence on getting WiFi on the SkyTrain and the Canada Line, however those “are assets owned and operated by Translink,” points out Adcock, adding: “The City of Vancouver would look forward to any opportunities to work collaboratively with other existing networks on broader Public WiFi network strategies.”

So far, it seems transit users will have to be content with catching one of a handful of WiFi-equipped buses launched this year in partnership with Telus.

Featured image: WiFi zone sign/Shutterstock

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Lindsay William-Ross Lindsay is a Senior Editor at Vancity Buzz, and currently runs the site's Food section. A fourth generation Vancouverite, she spent the last two decades in Los Angeles, where she was EIC of the city's top blog, earned her MA, attended culinary school, and was an English professor (among other things). Lindsay's first published piece was December 1980 in The Province; it was her letter to Santa. E-mail: lindsay@vancitybuzz.com
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