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Vancouver eyes spring free Wi-Fi launch

By Jane Deacon

Plan's to expand Vancouver's free Wi-Fi network are moving forward, with service expected across the city by the spring. The smaller dots indicate community centres, civic facilities and recreation sites. The large red markers indicate potential sites for streetlight-situated sites. 
(Photo submitted)

Plan's to expand Vancouver's free Wi-Fi network are moving forward, with service expected across the city by the spring. The smaller dots indicate community centres, civic facilities and recreation sites. The large red markers indicate potential sites for streetlight-situated sites. (Photo submitted)

The City of Vancouver is set to have free public Wi-Fi at nearly 50 locations city-wide by next spring - including two outdoor hot spots.

Using their smartphone or computer, residents will be able to log on outside of Canada Place, outdoors along a section of Granville Street and at roughly 45 community recreation venues.

Vancouver’s digital strategy department is in the midst of seeking applicants to bid on the project, with the hopes of rolling it out next spring.

The plan is to provide free wireless internet access at 27 community centres, along with selected city theatres, pools, marinas, golf courses and two outdoor “pilot” sites attached to street poles.

As part of a strategy to provide universal access to the Internet, the hope is the network will also bolster tourism and the local technology economy, said Jessie Adcock, Vancouver’s chief digital officer.

“We’re looking at locations that bridge the digital divide, making sure there’s universal access to Wi-Fi across city facilities,” she said. “We’re also looking at locations where we want to see economic development through tourism and digital sectors.”

Adcock was tasked with developing a free Wi-Fi strategy through her appointment as head of the city’s digital strategy last year. She’s examined similar city-wide networks in San Francisco, San Jose and Fredericton to develop the first stage of the model.

If successful, the hope is to continue rolling out additional phases at other community venues and expand the outdoor network, potentially taking advantage of Vancouver’s 55,000 street poles.

The city hopes to contract out the project to multiple bidders, said Adcock, in a strategy to get a better level of coverage and garner more than one perspective on how plans can be implemented.

“This Wi-Fi project is very much about ensuring people engage more and to ensure that we have innovation and support for digital across the city,” she said.

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