09/24/2015 12:36 EDT

Overcoming The 'Digital Divide': Toronto Is Now One Step Closer To Free Public Wi-Fi

Grady Coppell

It may have taken 10 years, but Toronto is now closer to offering free reliable, public Wi-Fi.

Toronto's Economic Development Committee last Friday voted unanimously to support Coun. Josh Matlow’s motion to add Wi-Fi hotspots to the city’s parks, squares, plazas, Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) buildings and privately-owned public spaces (POPS), Toronto Metro reports.

In 2006, the city attempted to create a free Wi-Fi service called One Zone with the now-defunct Toronto Hydro Telecom.

One Zone failed after providing poor coverage exclusively in the downtown core. It also began charging users after it was acquired by Cogeco.

"Providing free public Wi-Fi in our parks and public spaces will signal to technology developers that Toronto is a tech-savvy jurisdiction and an excellent place to settle and do business," Matlow told the committee.

"We already have a flourishing high-tech sector that has attracted tech giants like Google, LinkedIn and Apple," Matlow said. "We have an opportunity to become a tech-friendly global centre."

TCHC residents would benefit from the implementation of free public Wi-Fi. Rassel Mohammed and his family live in community housing. Free Wi-Fi could help his family’s income go a little bit further, he told Toronto Metro.

“I’ve got Internet access, but I’m paying a large amount of money for it,” Mohammed said. “We’re not even a middle class family and it can be hard to pay the bills.”

TCHC offers units with rent options for lower-income individuals and families.

“There are so many residents in TCH buildings who don’t have access to high-speed Internet,” Matlow said. “If we can provide the connectivity to employment and education, we could change lives.”

The issue will go before Toronto City Council Sept. 30.


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