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Sarnia about to begin experiment in free downtown WiFi

Published on

Troy Shantz

Sarnia has its first downtown WiFi partner and the public should be able to access it in days.

Municipal staff will install an outdoor-mounted wireless router at the Plexus Sarnia Inkspot store at 234 Front St. N. in early January, said Mark Dillon, the city’s corporate manager of information technology.

The router creates a 300-to-500 foot WiFi ‘bubble’ anyone can use for free, he said.

“It’ll be as simple at using it at Tim Hortons.”

The city hopes to add as many as 10 downtown partners. The businesses allow the city to install the hardware, and voluntarily provide bandwidth from their own Internet service provider.

The partners in the pilot must be located in the downtown core between Wellington and George streets.

Another four or five outdoor installations will be added at streets and parks, and one or two on busses or transit shelters, Dillon said.

Usage will be monitored closely to learn what is working best for the community.

The city approved $15,000 for a feasibility study last year and is taking a go-slow approach.

Staff is also figuring out terms and conditions, establishing what kind of Internet access users will have, and what restrictions should be in place.

“What if someone uses it to do something illegal? We want to make sure we don’t enable bad stuff,” he said.

Sarnia has been exploring the concept of free downtown WiFi for the past year.

Councillors have said other cities including London, Stratford and Peterborough provide free online access as a way to stimulate economic development.




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