Toronto councillor proposes free citywide Wi-Fi

A Toronto councillor wants to help make the city more connected — by providing free and reliable Wi-Fi coverage in parks and public spaces.
A Toronto councillor wants to help make the city more connected -- by providing free and reliable Wi-Fi coverage in parks and public spaces. 2:45

A Toronto councillor wants to help make the city more connected — by providing free and reliable Wi-Fi coverage in parks and public spaces.

Coun. Josh Matlow, of Ward 22, presented his initiative for a free, extensive wireless network in Toronto to the city’s Economic Development Committee on Tuesday.

“We’re known as a hub of arts and culture and a centre for finance, but we’re not known as a tech-savvy city, and I’d like us to be so,” Matlow told CBC News.

He writes in his proposal that Toronto has fallen behind other Canadian cities like Edmonton and Fredericton, which provide city-wide Wi-Fi access free of charge.  

Matlow’s idea seems to have support from other councillors.

"Wi-Fi and connectedness ​— that’s one of the things that leave us behind Asian cities that have moved to the top of the list of cities. It’s connectedness in every square inch of the city," said Coun. Shelley Carroll.

If Matlow’s proposal is adopted by the committee, he hopes to launch the first pilot project in one of the city's busiest public spaces, Nathan Phillips Square, by 2014.

City of Toronto staff are expected to report on the viability of Matlow's proposal early next year.

He admits that there will be important considerations before his goal of a more connected Toronto can be realized.

"Is this going to be a public service the taxpayers are going to pay for or is this going to be a service — if we want to do it — that we should engage the Apples and the Googles or the Bells or Rogers … of the world  to move forward with,” Matlow said.

A similar project to provide free Wi-Fi coverage in the downtown core was launched a decade ago involving the City of Toronto and Toronto Hydro, but was eventually turned into a paid service.

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