Free Wi-Fi at Vancouver's parks and beaches?

Vancouver Park Board has voted to work with the city to develop a strategy to implement free public WiFi in all spaces under its jurisdiction

Vancouver could be joining the ranks of cities around the world that are providing free Wi-Fi in public spaces. The Vancouver park board passed a notice of motion put forth by Vision Commissioner Trevor Loke on April 14 to develop a plan that will provide free Wi-Fi around Vancouver’s parks and beaches. Loke said Wi-Fi would benefit businesses, residents and tourists by providing them with more options to use these spaces.

“There’s a lot of utility in people enjoying our parks in different ways,” said Loke. “Perhaps people want to be on a Kindle in a park and read there, and Wi-Fi would allow them to do that. They should be able to choose how they use the public space.”

When it comes to a timeline and budget, Loke hopes a report by city staff will inform park board commissioners on the appropriate action.

“We would be very targeted about where the Wi-Fi rolls out initially. When you’re dealing with technology you have to think on the basis that there will be perhaps things that aren’t working and it needs to be rolled out as we fix any bugs... we want to take a cautious approach on this.”

However, Kitsilano resident James Goodman quickly raised concerns with several commissioners when he heard of Loke’s propoposal. Goodman said Wi-Fi shouldn’t be a priority given park board’s “tight budget.”

“I see people on their cellphones, on their iPad, on their laptop working in the park all the time,” the retired electrical engineer said. “It doesn’t really seem like Wi-Fi is an issue. It’s a simple matter of tethering your laptop to your iPhone if you need access.”

Goodman suspects that the board is addressing the issue because it’s an election year and it “sounds catchy.”

“They need to... get on with managing the park,” he added.

Although some cities such as Quebec City, Taipei and New York City have free Wi-Fi in some public spaces, Tourism Vancouver spokesperson Amber Sessions believes it could differentiate Vancouver from other cities that currently don’t have free Wi-Fi.

“From a tourism promotional perspective, social media is such a big travel influence over people,” she said. “People seeing photos and status updates of their friends on vacation can really inspire people to actually visit a place themselves.”

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Story courtesy of the Vancouver Courier.

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