KELOWNA – An agreement between the City of Kelowna and Shaw Cable means residents and tourists alike can soon surf their mobile devices while tanning at Gyro beach or lounging in City Park.
The connections would be free for both Shaw customers as well as non-Shaw customers and would cover areas across Kelowna from Mission Centre to Rutland and the downtown core.
Information Services Manager Rob Entwistle told Council Monday that interest in Wi-Fi is at an all-time high and that the deal is without risk.
“The city believes this is a service that will be a benefit to both our citizens and visitors,” he said.
Several councillors expressed support for the five year contract, which would cover more than a dozen parks as well as businesses, city centres and buildings.
The log in process would require non-Shaw customers to provide their name and email address each time they access a hotspot, but Shaw customers would only have to register their mobile devices once.
“It would ask you for your name, email address and a few other details for authentication,” he said. “It should be similar to what you see in a hotel.”
The service would come without cost to the city and users, and Shaw would pay for the infrastructure and operating costs, including electricity, according to Entwistle.
Coun. Colin Basran supported the deal since it comes with little risk.
“I like the fact that this deal isn’t exclusive so if other companies wanted to also take part they certainly could,” he said. “We’re a tourism destination, and the fact that we as a city want to draw technology and innovation to our city, and the fact that we have higher learning institutions like UBCO and Okanagan College, it all makes sense so I’m happy to support this,”
Mayor Walter Gray said councillors got only two emails from residents opposing the service, though he didn't specify the objections. Entwistle said there's no plans for towers.
“At this point there’s no plan to put towers up,” he said. “But if there’s a specific part of a park, for example that isn’t getting covered, we may look at that.”
All other options would have to be exhausted first, he said.
The plan is part of a greater effort by Shaw to put free Wi-Fi in cities around the Okanagan. Vernon currently has around 23 locations and Penticton has more than 30.
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