Should Surrey invest in public Wi-Fi?
According to our blogging neighbours at Tenth to the Fraser, the City of New Westminster last month began a pilot project to provide free public wi-fi in Queen’s Park, the Uptown Business District, and the New West Public Library. The service is limited to 15 users at a time due to bandwidth limitations, but an upgrade is coming in mid-August to expand capacity.
Public wi-fi was touted several years back as a means of attracting young, educated, tech savvy residents into cities, and was at times even compared to essential municipal infrastructure such as sewers and running water. Former Vancouver mayoral candidate Peter Ladner was an adamant supporter of the concept and pushed for a pilot project downtown. The capital costs usually outweighed the public benefits and most of the visionary plans went onto the back burner. Certainly, the proliferation of high speed 3G access on cellular networks has diminished the demand for public wi-fi. That said, it is easily foreseeable how important blanket wi-fi city-wide could boost the economic opportunities and credentials of a municipality.
With the City of New West trying its mightiest to revitalize its core and find new sources of revenues through densification, public wi-fi may certainly help it attract a younger crowd looking for an affordable urban lifestyle. Its efforts beg the question – should Surrey be doing more to provide infrastructure like wi-fi to its citizens?
Currently, the only public library with wi-fi access is Newton.
I’ve long believed there is a strong opportunity to blanket our town centres with wi-fi. Perhaps the City Centre, or at least the new Civic Centre area around the library and new City Hall, could be seized as a pilot project. What do you think?
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