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Downtown core to become free wifi zone

Penticton is on its way to becoming a free city. A free wi-fi city, that is.

Tuesday, the city announced it had completed an agreement with Shaw Communications to provide wireless Internet service throughout the downtown core of Penticton and selected areas around the city.

The deal provides free Internet access, according to Colleen Pennington, the city’s economic development officer, in key spaces, and will allow not only Shaw customers to access the service, but guest users as well.

“This is a great opportunity for the city of Penticton,” said Pennington, explaining that the concept came out of the downtown planning process, where the need to have better Internet infrastructure in public spaces was identified among the top priorities of residents and businesses for creating economic activity.

The installation and operation of the public wi-fi service comes at no cost to the city. Pennington describes the contract as exchanging value for value; the city gains a network, while allowing Shaw access to city facilities at no cost to install the necessary infrastructure.

The service area ranges from the Penticton Library down to Gyro Park, as well as other facilities around the city, like the community centre, the art gallery and Leir House. Other areas included are the Okanagan Lake waterfront, Skaha Lake park and Rotary Centennial Pavilion.

Besides allowing residents to cut back on their cellular plan usage, Pennington said the free Internet access will have other benefits at events and as a tourism draw.

“It will allow events like the downtown Community and Farmers Market to have access to the Internet for more payment and information options,” she said.

“We are excited to bring Shaw Go Wi-Fi service to Penticton in some of the city’s most popular facilities,” said Ron McKenzie, vice president of operations for Shaw. “Extending Canada’s largest wi-fi network to Penticton will offer Shaw customers even greater connectivity and access.”

When the initial five-year agreement is up, Pennington said the city will evaluate the success of the projects based on meeting the expectations of our citizens, relative to what their needs are at that time.

“It is pretty hard to anticipate even where you are going to go even in a couple of years with technology,” she said. “I think that five years is a good time frame to allow things to evolve and then we will have to see what our needs are and what citizens’ needs are.”

 

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