The days of the Internet Cafe are coming to an end. Shops specific to providing internet for customers are dwindling, and this is because wifi hotspots are sprouting up in cities more and more frequently. Furthermore, smartphones keep people connected while on-the-go, ensuring that an internet connection is also a click or swipe away. If anything, the Internet Cafe has merely evolved into the modern cafe, i.e. Tim Hortons, Starbucks, Second Cup, Timothy’s, etc. Even buses and trains now offer commuters the option of plugging-in or logging-on for long-distance trips. Internet has become a necessary amenity, and it is for this reason, that Skyway Wifi in St. Catherine’s will undoubtedly be well-received.
Skyway Wifi will provide all City Hall visitors with free internet access. Similarly, St. Catherine’s Aquatics Centre and Dr. Huq Family Library Branch will be included in this service. Between 6am and midnight, residents will be able to use this free wifi service; however, users must agree to the terms before surfing the web. It is recommended that users take precaution when using public wifi: use a firewall to stop hackers from intercepting emails or data from your phone. If Skyway Wifi proves to be a useful tool for St. Catherine residents, many other facilities may follow suit, including the Seymour-Hannah Sports & Entertainment Centre, St. Catherine’s Museum, and Welland Canals Centre.
Other Cities Offering Residents Free Wifi
Recently, Santa Clara, California became the first city in the United States to provide free outdoor wifi service to all residents. Although this is the first city-wide instalment to date, there are many cities that have adopted free wifi policies for popular neighbourhoods and districts. Take Toronto, for instance: Toronto Hydro Wireless’ One Zone program offered a free-trial service for resident, but due to the fact the service would eventually cost money, residents never bought into it. Similarly, Google has been known to award specific neighbourhoods around the world with private-public funded hotspots. As can be seen, city wifi is not a new concept; but for St. Catherine’s this the first time anything like this has been implemented.
Should Councils Spend Money Hosting Free Wifi?
As Google has determined through numerous case studies in the States, offering free outdoor and indoor wifi boosts a place’s visitor count. On the flip side, free wifi encourages loitering. A delicate balance must be achieved between the two of these scenarios - traffic is good, as long as it is benefiting the city in some way. This is how it can be determined whether or not free wifi is profitable. Businesses will see a returned investment but cities do not have a way to measure this.
Luckily, for large institutions like City Hall, expanding the network will not be overly expensive. Facilities that already have a LAN (local area network) could improve their set-up and convert it to a MAN (metropolitan area network), or even a CAN (campus area network). These are both inexpensive alternatives for expanding a current wifi hotspot, as opposed to creating a WAN (wide area network) for the whole city to enjoy. Depending on the size of the network already in place, it could also be as simple as lifting the encryption to allow easy access for all.
Ab example of a MAN Set-up.