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Hamilton parks and public spaces get free Wi-Fi under new pilot program

The city says more locations will be added

Residents of Hamilton can now access free public Wi-Fi in William Connell Park on the Mountain — the third location that is part of a three-year pilot project expanding internet connectivity across the city.

The other two parks with Wi-Fi access are Gage Park and Waterdown Memorial Park.

Launched in late 2021, the pilot program for select parks and public spaces is aimed at enhancing digital infrastructure in the city.

Cyrus Tehrani, chief digital officer at the City of Hamilton, told The Spec that with the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, it was harder for many to access public Wi-Fi in indoor facilities, highlighting the digital divide, and affecting digitally disadvantaged individuals relying on connectivity.

“The reality has changed and the internet is considered an essential service,” Tehrani said. “If we can help in some small way by expanding accessibility in a few parks and public spaces, it benefits the community as a whole.”

A federal grant opportunity has made it easier for the city to explore broadband connectivity issues. The project is collectively funded by the Government of Canada’s Healthy Communities initiative — granting $99,999 — and the City of Hamilton through $70,000.

Currently, 76 locations across the city have public Wi-Fi services, including libraries, museums, recreational centres, and arenas.

Under the pilot project, the municipality is targeting at least seven additional locations by the end of 2022. Tehrani said specific location details are yet to be determined based on feasibility and cost-effectiveness.

This is not the first time the city has offered free Wi-Fi in public spaces.

In early 2013, the City of Hamilton scrapped its wireless internet services in the downtown core after five years as it would have required a large capital investment to upgrade the installation. At that time, councillors had chosen to invest in faster broadband services at community centres and indoor public spaces.

Ritika Dubey is a reporter at The Spectator.