By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton is shutting down its Wi-Fi network, Wireless Hamilton, saving about $90,000 in costs annually.
“We don’t need it. It’s not a priority for the city,” said Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark. “I’m glad to see this die a natural death.”
Wireless Hamilton was created in 2007 as a pilot project at a cost of just over $500,000, to service the downtown area at a time when there were few Wi-Fi networks around. The money, approved by the Hamilton Future Fund, was to install 69 access points, the wireless infrastructure, and website.
Five years later, nearly every “coffee shop, and burger joint” offers free Wi-Fi, said Clark.
“They are doing a better job,” he said.
It will cost the city about $30,000 to dismantle the aging service, saving about $90,000 in bills from Rogers. Politicians are scheduled to vote on the issue at their Dec. 13 council meeting.
Dundas councillor Russ Powers said he toured the downtown recently with an iPad and discovered he could access wireless networks even in former “dead zones” where Wireless Hamilton couldn’t reach.
“We have a number of suppliers of Wi-Fi that is far reaching,” he said. “This will not be a loss.”
Neil Everson, director of economic development and real estate, said eliminating Wireless Hamilton won’t affect the city’s businesses.
“There have been no complaints,” he said, adding hotels even offer free Wi-Fi.
Wireless Hamilton was created to promote economic development and tourism within the downtown area and to provide wireless access to people who couldn’t afford it.
But city staff discovered the geographic area that Wireless Hamilton serviced was too large, creating what became known as “dead zones.” Wireless Hamilton didn’t have enough money to eliminated those areas that didn’t have Wi-Fi. The area included Barton Street, Main Street,Victoria Avenue and Queen Street.
Besides Wireless Hamilton, the city has installed Wi-Fi for public use at the Stoney Creek Recreation Centre, the Westmount Recreation Centre, Morgan Firestone Arena, Valley Park Recreation, Wentworth and Macassa lodges, the MacNab Street Transit Terminal, all fire stations and Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Inc. facilities. The city’s libraries also have Wi-Fi networks.
Corporate Services General Manager Robert Rossini said to upgrade the current Wireless Hamilton network would mean investing another $500,000 in capital costs, to improve the technology which is five years out of date, and adding an additional 90 access points, plus paying $115,000 in operating funds annually.
“Why are we duplicating services that are already out there?” said Glanbrook councillor Brenda Johnson.