Downtown Wi-Fi network to go online by summer

Elizabeth Howell
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Tourists strolling past major landmarks in Ottawa's core this summer will be able to wirelessly surf the Internet as well, according to the National Capital Commission.

Ottawa's National Gallery of Canada.

After one failed contracting attempt, the NCC's second effort yielded a proponent able to meet the budget for putting Wi-Fi hotspots near Parliament Hill, Major's Hill Park, the National War Memorial and Jacques Cartier Park.

There are also discussions afoot with the National Gallery of Canada to put an antenna within range of its courtyard to provide outdoor Wi-Fi access, since the gallery is in negotiations to put an indoor Wi-Fi network in the facility.

Vancouver-based SurfSpot Media Inc. is proposing to put the antennas on roofs and other existing structures to keep the cost down, as well as to provide options for advertising by other tourism entities in the city. Rollout should start in the early summer near Parliament and be fully finished by mid-August.

"The way they see the network is more than just providing Internet access. It's providing media for the National Capital Commission to use it as a platform to better reach visitors, and providing more content related to visitors," said Daniel Feeny, the NCC's director of digital communications and the leader of this project.

The NCC would not release the financial value of the contract or the project budget, but noted SurfSpot's proposal is within the allocated amount. 

Wi-Fi is part of the NCC's strategy to make its tourism approach more interactive, Mr. Feeny added. Guides equipped with a small number of tablets will roam the main tourist hubs in the summer. There are also preliminary discussions about creating apps for iPhone and Android with walking tours of the Parliamentary precinct and Confederation Boulevard.

The tender requirements called for pockets of Wi-Fi access near major tourist locations and enough capacity for 500 people.

In 2011, the NCC issued a tender with a wider zone of coverage asking that 1,000 people have the ability to go online simultaneously, as well as requesting 50 tablets. The proposals that came back cost more than the money available, officials said.

Organizations: National Capital Commission, SurfSpot Media

Geographic location: Parliament Hill, Hill Park, Jacques Cartier Park

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