Wireless WIFI high-speed Internet access for whole city of Kamloops

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Technology: Wireless high-speed Internet access for whole city

Jim Jamieson

Vince Cavaliere may be reading this story online today, using his new wireless high-speed Internet access in Kamloops.

The veteran realtor will be one of the first — and most eager — customers as Kamloops launches a wireless network that covers about 80 per cent of the city’s area.

“I think it’s fantastic for Kamloops,” said Cavaliere. “I think you’re going to see this in every major city in Canada in the coming years. I have up-to-the-minute information access on all new listings placed on the Multiple Listing Service network, not only in Kamloops but anywhere in Canada.

“I can get zoning information. I can go to anyone’s website. As a realtor, that gives me a lot of powerful information,” he said.

As part of a public-private partnership with service provider On Call Internet Services, Kamloops will join a list of Canadian cities with a metropolitan wireless “WiFi” network that includes Victoria and Toronto, but not yet Vancouver.

Nine access locations have been constructed to provide WiFi connectivity to laptops and other compatible devices. An additional 14 “hot spots” for wireless Net connectivity have been provided by private businesses for a total of 23.

The service costs $3.50 per hour, $14.95 per day or $40 per month and offers download speeds of about two megabits per second — roughly equivalent to a consumer-wired Internet connection.

Cavaliere said he has been using a wireless air card from a major telecommunications provider that is costing him about $100 a month.

With the new Kamloops service, he figures he’ll save at least $60 a month and get faster speeds.

Jeff Putnam, business and client services manager for the City of Kamloops, said the city wants to retain and attract knowledge-based workers and businesses.

“Kamloops has always been known as a resources-based town, but now we’ve got a huge university,” he said. “We’re really focused on knowledge-based workers.”

Putnam said the city expects a strong return on its $106,000 investment over the duration of the three-year partnership arrangement. On Call will run the business and handle the equipment maintenance, he added.

“The business case is really strong,” he said. “We only need 125 monthly users to break even.”

The service is really aimed at mobile individuals and won’t be a viable alternative to Shaw Cable or Telus Corp.’s wired high-speed Internet service for more than a few Kamloops residents.

Putnam said the range of customers expected will be from local consumers to visiting business people to city employees — such as meter readers, city inspectors and firefighters — who will be able to ditch their cellphones.

“With our workers, we’re going to save a lot of money on cellphone use because we’re going to be able to use VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol or Internet telephone technology) that will save tens of thousands of dollars in the next couple of years.”

Instead of cellphones, the workers will communicate via headsets linked to WiFi equipped handhelds or laptops at virtually no cost.

As for Vancouver, a city-hall staff report on a metropolitan wireless network is to go before city council in December or January.


To connect to a wireless “WiFi” hot spot, you need a laptop or other portable-computing device that is wireless capable. Most newer computers — PC or Mac — have this technology built in. But if your computer is older, an external or internal card can be connected to provide reception. Most wireless devices find hot spots automatically.

Though some hot spots, such as in coffee shops, are free, many require fee for service. Expect to encounter a registration screen and be asked for a credit-card number.

Be cautious when using hot spots. Security experts advise the minimum is up-to-date security software and a firewall. If you’re transmitting sensitive information, encryption is also advised.

© The Vancouver Province 2006


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