Wi-Fi will find a way outside


By Daniel Melfi

Wi-Fi fills the halls of campus buildings, but students hoping to Google on Gould Street have to shell out for data plans.

That could change as early as spring, as Ryerson looks to expand campus Wi-Fi to outdoor spaces.

“Everyone thinks it’s a good idea,” said Brian Lesser, director of Ryerson’s computing and communications services (CCS).

Lesser said the CSS is in in the process of “fact-finding and analyzing all the options.” They are mainly focusing on how to cover important outdoor spaces, such as the Quad, Ryerson theatre and the pedestrian area around Gould and Victoria Streets.

Lesser added that they haven’t developed a proposal just yet, so “the earliest Wi-Fi could begin to be seen on campus would be in the spring, though even that is hopeful.”

This news comes as the city of Toronto explores a similar proposal.

Coun. Josh Matlow has brought forward a motion for free Wi-Fi in all of Toronto’s public spaces. The proposal will go to the government management committee on Oct. 15.

Matlow is confident the proposal will pass through the process.

“I’ve heard a lot of really good feedback from my colleagues in city hall and I don’t think I will encounter many detractors.”

Toronto is lagging behind the tech culture when it comes to Wi-Fi, said Matlow. Many cities across the globe have already invested, tested and are now realizing the benefits of having free Wi-Fi in public spaces.

“These cities range from New York City to San Francisco, all the way to Brisbane in Australia,” he said.

Matlow believes the addition of Wi-Fi would be an increased incentive for tourists because it would negate the enormous roaming fees that everyone is accustomed to while travelling.

Matlow is adamant that it would also respond to the large equity gap that Toronto suffers from.

“Twenty per cent of Torontonians who make under $30,000 a year cannot afford the internet,” he said.

When asked about the cost of the idea, Matlow responded by acknowledging that “there are options. We could use sponsors on a welcome page, or we could use a carrier to extend the service.” He uses examples of San Francisco and New York City where Google and AT&T, respectively, provide the services.

Matlow hopes the motion is successful and would like to see a pilot set up soon. He says that Nathan Phillips Square would be a good early testing ground.

“It is the front door to our government and it’s Toronto’s main square,” he said.

Savvy surfers can already find free Wi-Fi around town, with St. Lawrence Market, the Direct Energy Centre and Yonge and Dundas Square offering patrons free public Wi-Fi.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on September 25, 2013.

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