The Wellington West BIA (WWBIA) and IceNet Wireless have partnered to bring free community WiFi to Wellington West. The installation will begin in April and continue over the summer, with a launch date planned for July.
Zachary Dayler, Executive Director of the WWBIA, says other neighbourhood BIAs are keeping a close eye on this pilot project.
“It’s an opportunity to really learn here… and I know the board and those who are involved want to stress that this is new and we want to do it well,” says Dayler.
The idea originally came out of a university urban planning project, and conversations with Creative Neighbourhoods, an Ottawa-based non-profit group dedicated to improving the design of public spaces.
A tender was issued and IceNet came back with “the most creative and reasonable plan,” says Dayler.
Evaluation will be a key element of the project. The WWBIA will be creating an advisory group and reaching out to local groups, such as community associations.
“It’s absolutely important to get them on there, but before we bring them in we need to know what we’re going to ask them to evaluate,” says Dayler, who hopes to “hard launch” the service by the end of July.
The WWBIA hopes the community WiFi project will result in more “eyes on the street,” and bring people out of their homes to use the service. Given the high price of data, Dayler believes there’s an appetite for “WiFi hopping.”
“Will people be coming out on to their balconies all of a sudden? Sitting with their laptops or their phone? What’s it going to do for cycling for example?” asks Dayler. “I think it will become part of our fabric, just like how the Internet has done.”
The evaluation process will take a number of different aspects into consideration, including a functional assessment.
“We don’t want to offer something that’s a slow service – it’s about providing a quality product, and we want the WiFi and the interaction we provide the shoppers to reflect the quality of the businesses in this area,” says Dayler.
“The biggest win is in the hardware itself, we’re putting in the plumbing for the future. And that’s really important.”
According to IceNet’s website, the “free wireless not only gives consumers that chance to log onto the Internet and keep in touch with those around them, but it also gives companies the ability to “keep in touch” with the consumers.”
Running ads on the network is a likely scenario although Dayler can’t comment what that would look like.
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