British Columbia

Vancouver plans to roll out hundreds more free Wi-Fi hubs

Mayor Gregor Robertson said the City of Vancouver has partnered with Shaw to install more than 500 new free Wi-Fi locations in addition to dozens of hubs already installed since 2015.

City aims for more than 600 high-speed hubs in public spaces

Users need to register before they can connect to the Wi-Fi hub. Their phones will automatically connect to other hubs across the city when passing by. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

The next time you're streaming videos during your lunch break, you might not have to worry about data overages.

On Friday the City of Vancouver unveiled plans to expand its free Wi-Fi program, with hundreds of new hubs installed downtown and in public spaces across the city.

Mayor Gregor Robertson said the city has partnered with Shaw to install more than 500 new free wireless locations, in addition to the dozens of hubs already installed since the project began in 2015.

"With soon to be over 600 locations total, Vancouver will have one of the largest free public Wi-Fi networks in North America," said Robertson.

Hundreds of hubs will be installed in the city's downtown core. (CBC)

Corridor access

According to the city, many of the new hubs are clustered in the downtown core, but users will also have Wi-Fi access in popular walking and transit corridors, including:

  • Broadway (Oak to Cambie)
  • Commercial Drive (Venables to 1st Avenue)
  • Davie Street (Jervis to Burrard)
  • Denman Street (from Davie to W. Georgia)
  • Downtown Eastside
  • Gastown
  • Granville Street (from Drake to Cordova)
  • Main Street (Broadway to East 16th Avenue)
  • Robson Street (from Denman to Burrard)

To access the free Wi-Fi hubs, users must connect to the #VanWiFi network. According to the city, no personal information is required, but users must agree to terms and conditions.

Standard speeds are around 10 mbps, the city says — fast enough to stream and share video. There is no cap on data usage.

Privacy concerns

The City of Vancouver's chief technology officer Jessie Adcock said the networks are secure, but users should always be vigilant when accessing public Wi-Fi hubs.

"No Wi-Fi network is ever going to be 100-per-cent [safe]," she said. "We use everything we can to ensure that the anonymity and privacy of the user is maintained — we're not collecting any information from the phones," she added.

Ronald Cenfetelli, accounting and information systems professor at UBC Sauder, says public Wi-Fi users always bear the risk of giving up personal information to hackers when logged on to a network.

He says the risk can be mitigated by configuring a virtual private network on your device.