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Pilot Project: Public Wi-Fi

Residents and visitors to a segment of Saskatoon’s core neighbourhood area will soon enjoy free public Wi-Fi access on their smartphones, tablets or laptops as part of a pilot project by the City of Saskatoon.

The service is part of a pilot project by the City to address growing barriers and risks in our community, commonly referred to as the ‘digital divide’. In December 2016, the Canadian government declared Internet access a basic right of all Canadian citizens. The COVID-19 crisis has focused attention on the systemic institutional barriers impacting vulnerable people in the community and the requirement for equitable access to Internet services. Existing Internet access options are often inaccessible due to the associated costs. The only means of accessing the Internet are through free Wi-Fi hotspots that are often difficult to get to or use. 

 What you  can expect from us

  1. The pilot project explores a cost-effective City-delivered solution for approximately 1500 residents to access the Internet from or near their homes and in public areas at no cost. With access to the Internet, residents will be able to access key tools like telehealth and learning applications as well as important information including housing, food, pandemic restrictions, and government services.
  2. The project, valued at $250,000, is a one-year pilot that is expected to launch later this year. At the end of 12 months of operation, an assessment of the pilot will be carried out to determine the future direction, which may involve continuing, expanding or discontinuing the service.

Project updates

February 2022: 

  • The Administration issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) on February 8, 2022, for a vendor to supply products to deliver wireless Internet access points throughout the proposed area. 
  • The size of the area involved in the pilot project will be approximately three-square blocks, with details to be confirmed through the RFP process. 
  • The project will see the City deliver highspeed Internet via fibre to the Saskatoon Fire Development Centre, a City-owned building located at 116 Avenue W South to serve as the connection point (hub).
  • As the primary hub, a wireless signal will then be broadcast to the pilot area through the solution identified through the vendor’s RFP submission. 
Why is the City investing in free Wi-Fi for Saskatoon residents and visitors?

No matter where they live, all residents need access to high-speed Internet for essential legal and medical services, to connect with family, keep up at school, run a business and keep up with day-to-day transactions. Issues resulting from a lack of access to the Internet are being discussed across Canada.  The growing barriers and risks are commonly referred to as “the digital divide”.  In December 2016, the Canadian government declared Internet access a basic right of all Canadian citizens.

More recently, the COVID-19 crisis focused attention on the systemic institutional barriers impacting vulnerable people in the community and the requirement for equitable access to internet services. Existing Internet access options are often inaccessible due to the associated costs. Often the only means of accessing the Internet are through free Wi-Fi hotspots that are often difficult to get to or use.  

To address this issue, the City of Saskatoon developed a pilot project to provide fully subsidized public Wi-Fi service to residents and visitors in a segment of Saskatoon’s core neighbourhood area.  The pilot will help the City to gain an understanding of public Wi-Fi benefits, public/private partnership opportunities and governance.  

 

What's involved in the pilot project?

The project will look at a number of areas to be able to better plan for any future public internet services:​

  • The establishment of a Wi-Fi network for a target location (pilot area) that allows connectivity to the Internet.
  • The development of a clear understanding of the City’s role in the governance and maintenance of a free public Wi-Fi network.
  • An understanding of the partnership opportunities with other institutions and private businesses that can contribute to the design, maintenance and running of a free public Wi-Fi network.
  • The ability for citizens to access and utilize the services and information needed via free public Wi-Fi.
  • At the end of 12 months, an assessment of the pilot will be presented to determine future direction which may include the pilot’s continuation, expansion or discontinuation of the service.

Where will the target location (pilot area) be for this project?

(Updated February 7, 2022) 

The City has identified a site inside of the streets bordering 22nd Street, Avenue U South, 19th Street, and Witney Avenue South, for the pilot location.  This location shows very high equity need, high uptake of digital devices from the Saskatoon Public School Board information, is very near City-owned fibre optic cable and may allow for coverage of both higher density housing and community spaces.  

The project will see the City deliver high speed internet via fibre optic to the Saskatoon Fire Development Centre, a City-owned building located at 116 Avenue W South to serve as the connection point (hub) for the Wi-Fi access points.  The facility is City-owned, would have a lower cost to bring fibre to, and any investments in the fibre infrastructure would have ongoing benefits and use.

How was the target location (pilot area) determined?

To select the pilot area, data was collected from City sources as well as through consultations with external organizations.  

A fundamental principle for the project is to support the equitable access to Internet services for disadvantaged population and neighborhoods.  To support this principle, the evaluation relied on equity measures.  Specifically, five indicators were used including the percentage of youth populations, senior populations, immigrant populations, Indigenous populations, and low-income populations. 

Additionally, a heat map of the postal codes shows where Saskatoon Public Schools provided digital devices for students to use while all students were taking education online in the spring of 2020.

Finally, the proximity to existing City-owned infrastructure to minimize the cost of the project. The network is used as a primary resource for this determining the location.

How will success be measured for the pilot project?

An assessment of the pilot will include engagement with residents using the service as well as data gathered from a technical perspective to determine future direction.

Are there other locations the City offers free public WiFi access?

Free public Wi-Fi is available to all residents and visitors at a variety of City-owned facilities through a partnership with Shaw Communications. 
Find out where it's available.