What'sbeing touted as Canada's biggest free wireless internet service has been switched on in Regina.

The Saskatchewan government's free Wi-Finetwork was officially opened Thursdayin the downtown, the 13th Avenue business district and in the historic warehouse area.

Anyone with a laptop computer and an inexpensive Wi-Fi card can now sit on a bench downtown and get free access to the internet, according to Richard Murray, a spokesman for the province's information technology office.

Wi-Fi is a way of getting high-speed access to the internet via a wireless signal. The name is a play on the old term hi-fi — short for high fidelity.

Other communities in Canada, including Fredericton,Ottawa and Whistler, B.C., have already rolled out free wireless Internet services,but noneto the extentthatRegina has, Murray said.

"We're certainly the biggest," he said. "We're clearly ahead of the pack."

Later this month, similar networks will be opened in Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw.

In September, new Wi-Fi networks will also be launched at the province's two university campuses and atSaskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology campuses.

There are some limitations to the free service.

Pornographic websites and hate contentwill be blocked, Murray said.

Apart from that, people will be more or less free to use the network as they see fit, Murray said. However, because it's a public network, people are advised not to use it for online banking or any other sensitive transactions.

Although it's designed to be used outside, some people inresidences and businessesin the designated areas will be able to use the wireless network inside as well, Murray said.

The capital cost of the new Wi-Fi setup is $1.3 million. The annual operating cost is estimated to be around $340,000. The provincial government is paying the entire cost.