Friday, September 02, 2011

Why is open Wifi so scarce in Ottawa?

Take a look at some of the lists of free, open wifi spots available in Ottawa today. It's pathetic. Look at this site: published in 2007, it shows maybe seven places in Ottawa-Gatineau with free wifi. Today’s list from the ogWifi organization, which promotes free, open Wifi in Ottawa and Gatineau, lists 12 sites in this urbanization of a million inhabitants. And the number has hardly grown in the past two years—a period in which wifi technology and wifi access around the world has exploded.

The list does not include places that charge one way or another for wireless Internet access, such as Bridgehead coffee shops, where you have to buy something to get a password. (Even then, most of the time my iPad cannot find the network.)

Let's compare that to other major cities. I found that Vienna, Austria and Lausanne, Switzerland, have free, open wifi access in large public areas such as squares and plazas. Granted, it may be slow, but it's well ahead of nothing at all.

I heard years ago about proposals to offer free wireless access throughout downtown areas of Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. And there is free access in a couple of areas, such as around Parliament Hill, reportedly. 

But this is pathetic. Why not have free, open wifi access in most public areas of the city, which would allow anyone with a wireless-equipped computer to get onto the net?

Could it be because the alternative is 3G access through a cell phone account? Access which is much more expensive?

Could it be that there are few sponsors for wifi access, because Canada's two Internet access providers are also the two main mobile phone and land-line providers, namely Rogers and Bell?

Is this anti-competitive behaviour?

What do you think?


  1. You are right that someone is trying to make money. Here's my experience. The company I work for just paid a lot of money to exhibit what it sells in a convention hall. The hall had a paywall for using its Internet access. People were outraged. We use social media to advertise the event. We paid for the booth and the social media advertising we did gives the event free publicity so we should be allowed to get online for free. We had 24 authors there Tweeting and updating their Facebook pages with their book festival news -- we all had to pay. Access should be included in the fee we paid to attend.

    1. That seems to me to be a really poor business practice on the part of the convention company, or the event manager. Were they TRYING to restrict publicity for their event? Did they not have any intention of holding another?

      I'd like to find out what it really costs to set up an open WiFi network - I don't imagine it's very much. Now, business people, compare that cost to the value of the publicity generated.