225 wireless hubs atop streetlights now provide wi-fi access to Toronto’s financial core. These hubs connect to Toronto Hydro Telecom’s underground fibre optic network. For the next six months the service is free. After that, connecting will cost $29 (CAD) per month, competitive with any other broadband itnernet service.
Although the network only covers 6 square kilometres today, Toronto Hydro has plans to expand the network to 700 square kilometers in the next few years.
Other North American cities have similar programs. Atlanta offers free wireless access downtown. Although the pricing details are not known, there is a SIlicon Valley task force preparing to offer Wi-Fi to a 2400 square kilometre zone from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. Seattle, Philadelphia and New Orleans also offer downtown wireless or soon will do so.
So what? Or What will happen next?
Is Wi-Fi a gimic, perhaps to make the news or attract the talented young workers? Or, does it have real economic and business development value?
Overthe next few years we will see its value. Wi Fi in the cities will generate economic activity and business creativity that we can’t even imagine today. It will be like street lights, electricity, cel phone networks, or even roads. No city will be able to compete for companies and talented workers without this infrastructure. They won’t be able to compete for conventions and business events without it either.