FREE OPEN PUBLIC WIFI INITIATIVES
Cities have been trying to roll out free WiFi in cities as a way to level the playing field when it comes to accessing information and the internet. Last month a story about the FCC wantin to push for free WiFi made the rounds, sadly it was debunked by Ars Technica.
For years the push has been on in major urban centers to create Mesh networks of wireless access in the way public utilities service our needs for electricity and water. Google covers its office neighborhoods in New York and Mountainview, California with many access points. Cities like Minneapolis, Denver, Houston, Raleigh, and Seattle have succeeded in creating a network of open public WiFi, but broad access in cities has yet to become the norm. Talinn, Estonia is probably the best example of a free, public, and open WiFi network operating in a city.
Will we ever see free WiFi coverage in cities as a public utility? That’s hard to say, some suggest that the ISPs will sue the cities if they try to provide for free what the companies provide for a fee. Well, that and the fact there are people who think WiFi is dangerous radiation that is making our kids sick.
THE NEXT BEST THING
In the meantime, what Shaw has done with their Shaw Go WiFi initiative is as close as you’ll get to free and open public WiFi in Canada and, for Shaw subscribers, it’s a great initiative.
If you have a low data limit on your phone, switching to WiFi will help you save your usage, and really let you use more data. The app I showed a couple of weeks ago, Data Man, is a great way to monitor your data usage and see how close to your limits you are.
Shaw Go WiFi has large routers positioned almost all over the city. Simply log in once with your Shaw account credentials, and save it as a preferred network. Now, whenever you’re in the Talisman Center, Chinook, Cardel Place, or coffee shops along 17th, you won’t need the local WiFi, or your cell data plan – you’ll be on Shaw Go WiFi.
It’s not just a local thing, it’s across the country. On recent trips to Vancouver, and Edmonton I was dropping in on Shaw Go WiFi instead of using my data plan.
On your phone make the settings so that you log on to known WiFi networks. Your home, for example. Everytime you walk in the house, you’ll turn off your tower data consumption, and instead feed off your local router. Having this turned on with the ShawOpen setting also means you’ll switch to the free WiFi whenever it’s available.
There’s also Shaw Go WiFi Finder app to help you find coverage points across the country. As you can see by the map at the right, Calgary is virtually covered.
APP OF THE WEEK: Free WiFi Finder [free]
For those NOT on Shaw, there are still other ways to find free WiFi. Free WiFi Finder will use your location to help you find coffee shops, or other similar venues where you can grab a cuppa and get online.