City takes Shaw up on its offer of free Wi-Fi

Shaw’s proposal includes 92 different Wi-Fi access points throughout the city

Wi-Fi hot spots are expected to soon be popping up all over the city after council took Shaw up on its offer to provide free wireless service around the community.

Shaw approached the city with a proposal to deliver free Wi-Fi in Campbellton, Willow Point, the downtown core, and at several city-owned facilities.

Council, at Tuesday’s meeting, directed city staff to negotiate an agreement with Shaw to provide the free Wi-Fi and allow access to city infrastructure, such as street lights, for the necessary equipment.

Shaw’s offer comes seven months after Mayor Walter Jakeway asked staff to look into free Wi-Fi coverage around the community.

“It just seems like exactly the right thing with so many people having digital devices that are mobile,” Jakeway said in January after noticing Langford had Wi-Fi hot spots strategically placed around town. “I just thought it was a great idea.”

Warren Kalyn, manager of information services for the city, said at Tuesday night’s council meeting that Shaw is proposing to deliver Wi-Fi capabilities as long as the city provides access to its infrastructure, such as street lights, traffic signals, crosswalk signal poles, municipal buildings, and hydro poles, to string the transmitters.

“This service has been offered to several municipalities throughout Canada with varying degrees of acceptance,” Kalyn said. “Council has reviewed a number of concerns about wireless radio frequency (RF) emissions. The RF exposure levels from Wi-Fi are well below Canadian and international safety limits.”

Shaw’s proposal includes 92 different Wi-Fi access points throughout the city, which the city would have the final say on.

Those access points are: 11th Avenue which would cover from Dogwood Street east to Shoppers Row; Shoppers Row; Campbellton (industrial area between Highway 19A and Highway 19 and the Campbell River); Merecroft Village; and Willow Point.

Additional points proposed for free Wi-Fi are: Discovery Pier, Robert Ostler Park, Dick Murphy Park, Rotary Beach Park, Frank James Park, McCallum Park, Centennial Pool, Willow Point Park and the Sportsplex.

Guest access to these hot spots for non-Shaw customers would be limited to 500 mb per month on downloads.

Kalyn said that would allow Wi-Fi users access to their e-mails, enable them to surf online websites and would be a significant asset to tourists who could use their mobile devices to look at online maps and search the Internet for information. Once the agreement is in place the city is expected to receive a one-time funding of $200 per access point to cover incidental costs over a five-year term, anticipated to be $18,400.

The city also had the choice to adopt a model which would have only allowed existing Shaw customers to access the free Wi-Fi spots and Shaw would have provided the city with $23,000 per year in revenue in exchange for access to city infrastructure.

Coun. Larry Samson, the only councillor to oppose the deal, didn’t agree with council choosing the lesser, one-time $200 contract.

“It almost seems like it’s a subsidy to a private company, that we’re allowing them the use of our infrastructure for a nominal fee over five years when for commercial access we’d get almost five times that amount,” Samson said. “To me that doesn’t sit right.”

City Manager Andy Laidlaw explained that under the deal which allows all residents access, Shaw is providing a benefit to Campbell River’s citizens in lieu of paying rental costs to the city for use of its infrastructure. Under the model that would have allowed only Shaw customers access to the Wi-Fi hot spots, Shaw would pay monetary rental fees to the city.