For the Locals: Talk to Council About Municipal Wifi

I’ve been following some formal and informal investigations into setting up a municipal wireless network in downtown Vancouver. The city of Vancouver recently completed a report (PDF) on this topic, and it’s on the agenda for tomorrow’s Council meeting (I know I’m late on this, but I only heard about it recently myself).

Here’s what I heard through the grapevine:

If you or any of your friends would be interested in speaking in support of the concept, it could help push this to the next stage. Right now the city staff are not recommending that the city go forward with a municipal wireless system.

I don’t have time to speak to Council tomorrow, nor, to be honest, do I have any fully formed opinions that I’d articulate, besides the fact that municipal wireless is a good idea. More importantly, I’m no more than a semi-informed noob when it comes to this topic.

There are people who ought to go speak to council. Boris? Roland? Somebody from BC Wireless or WIN?

Here are some instructions on how to present to Council.


  1. I’d like to know why you would like to see the City of Vancouver spend even one dollar of tax payer money in even researching such an idea, let alone implementing it. Given the fact that people who live downtown are almost certainly able to afford their own Wi-Fi and for the people who are poor who live downtown, Wi-Fi is pretty low on their list, wouldn’t you agree?

    Believe me, I’m no bleeding heart, but come on, let’s get our priorities straight.

  2. Mike: Well, if the only challenge is justifying spending some money in researching the idea, how about this: there could be a significantly positive economic spinoff from enabling wifi usage across the city. If it was affordable, it could also reduce the digital divide between the Internet-haves and have-nots, and it would probably employ some people in setting up and maintaining the network.

    If I had time, I’d go read up on what other cities have discovered in researching, planning and implementing the system.

  3. Hi Darren,
    we organized a free mesh-network (5ghz and 2,4ghz) with today more than 450 nodes in our town. The nodes run with opensource software und dynamic-routing algorithm. If you need support concerning the technology and so, please drop a line. We also have connections to hardware dealers and to small consulting companies who work with mesh-concepts.

  4. Well, as it turned out, council (technically, its committee on city services and budgets) decided unanimously to push forward. The staff recco to rejig regulations and do little else was savaged by the speakers; instead, some sort of P3 (possibly a non-profit one) is the model of choice. One of the speakers compared a government-directed but privately-run system to being akin to the old BC Tel, which isn’t derogatory in the slightest.

    Jusdging from what I saw in the room, most of the council is somewhere between modestly supportive to enthusiastic. I’d say that the odds of Vancouver being under muni wireless in the next few years are really quite good.

  5. Hey Darren – in Kamloops, we have just set up a P3 community wireless network. This is a collaboration between the City of Kamloops and a lccal isp – On Call Internet Services. City work crews, inspectors, and other staff can now access important and up to date information virtually from anywhere. Thats a big win for municipal operations.

    And, anybody else can access the wireless network as well – which makes it a money maker potentially for the city. The big telcos are the only other folks talking about such networks, but they have not come to the table yet.

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