09/14/2011 08:00 EDT | Updated 11/14/2011 05:12 EST

Wi-Fi coming to Vancouver streets, parks

Calgary-based Shaw Communications is teaming up with Cisco to blanket Vancouver and other western cities with wireless internet access — but it won't be free.

By spring of 2012, Shaw plans to let customers tap into Shaw's broadband backbone from several thousand urban wireless access points in places such as sporting venues and transit hubs.

Victoria has already experimented with small-scale wireless service, and New Westminster has offered Wi-Fi access for up to 30 users in a pilot project in places such as Queens Park and the public library.

As early as 2005, Vancouver's city council talked about offering free Wi-Fi, but has since backed off. Officials said it would be too expensive.

But even with a company stepping in to build the infrastructure, some city representatives think there should be regulation over the service.

Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs doesn't want to see several companies cluttering up the landscape.

"If they're going to be there, I think Ottawa — as the regulator of telecommunications — will have to try to make sure there's not a lot of wasted investment with one firm putting putting Wi-Fi on top of another firm," Meggs said.


Vancouver Non-Partisan Association candidate Mike Klassen said the city shouldn't stall any longer: it should get onboard with wireless providers now.

"From the NPA stand-point, this is a no-brainer. We want to be able to bring this innovative type of technology and use it to benefit our citizens and the taxpayers," Klassen said.

He said Shaw's plan opens the door to exciting new opportunities, especially in more remote places like parks.

"You could do things in Stanley Park: maps, information, even purchases of everything. We do parking now, but that's barely scraping the surface of what we could possibly do," Klassen said.

In its press release, Shaw Communications stated that part of the reason for providing wide-ranging Wi-Fi access is due to the near-ubiquity of Wi-Fi enabled smart phones.

The Western Canada Shaw Wi-Fi network will use Cisco technology, and is set to begin deployment in late 2011.

Shaw said it is anticipating being ready for customers next spring.