New West “connects to the future” with WiFi network

The success of New Westminster’s WiFi pilot project has city council looking into expanding the service to more locations throughout the city.

The service was debuted at the public library, Queen’s Park Arena and Arenex and the Uptown business corridor in July 2010. Last spring, city hall and Century House were added when the coverage expanded. The trial wrapped up in August.

According to a report released today, the project, which was a collaborative effort by the city’s electrical utility and informational technology services division, attracted an average of 2,500 users per month.

The WiFi technology provided stable, reliable Internet access, and survey feedback from city employees and the public was generally positive.

“The performance speed and throughput of the 802.11n WiFi network has been excellent and one of the fastest public hotspots in the Lower Mainland,” said the report. “The availability of WiFi at our municipal facilities and arenas was very much welcomed by our patrons and other public users.”

Despite assurances from Health Canada and provincial health agencies, some people still expressed concerns over potential health risks of the network.

Survey respondents were also divided about how much the service should cost. While more than half said it should be free, all but three per cent said the cost should be kept under $20.

The pilot project also involved the testing of a wireless parking meter and WiFi-enabled phones for Canada Games Pool staff. Both were aimed at saving monthly telephone carrier charges were the initiative to become more widespread.

“The wireless applications tested seemed to work well and could potentially help improve municipal operational efficiencies in some areas,” said the report.

Council will continue to look at ways to expand the service in the coming months.