WiFi and community development

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Just finished reading ‘Building WiFi Networks for Communities’, [PDF] an article by Catherine Middleton and Barbara Crow. It was useful in looking at alternative models for offering mobile Internet connectivity for local communities, especially for reviewing efforts this past summer by my own municipality of New Westminster to provide WiFi hotspots.

The Fredericton eZone model is an interesting build out from municipal infrastructure.  Middleton and Crow state, “What makes this situation unique is that the municipality owns and manages the network and that these three [city employees] continue to play a key role in advocating and developing the Wi-Fi network.” It makes me curious about my hometown’s efforts with Q-Net, a dark-fibre network built to drive improved broadband Internet.

Are there plans to build on the backhaul capacity of Q-Net to offer public WiFi? While the suburban city currently lacks the population density to cover the entirety of Coquitlam, the efforts to increase density in the Town Centre neighbourhood – combined with its existing concentration of schools, library and other civic services, retail businesses and City Hall – would suggest that there are clusters of the city that could benefit from WiFi. Established business parks in Coquitlam are primarily devoted to retail shopping, logistics and some light industrial/manufacturing but low-cost WiFi for businesses may allow for the city to lure higher-tech businesses to new/redevelopment areas like the Fraser Mills, Austin Heights and Burquitlam and City Centre areas.

While the eZone model seems to have the most potential relevance for Coquitlam as a whole, connecting with the ISF community in Montreal may provide some unique opportunities for the Maillardville neighbourhood. Middleton and Crow note that most of the group is Francophone, with a primary goal of “community engagement and interaction”. For a Francophone community that is very pro-active to retain their historic and cultural ties to Quebec, ISF may be able to offer some interesting tools for Maillardville.