Calgary, Toronto, interested in joining Intel’s digital communities initiative

Two Canadian cities have indicated their interest in a vendor-led program to implement wireless infrastructure in communities worldwide, according to Intel Corp. While Calgary and Toronto have expressed their desire to participate in Intel’s Digital Communities Initiative, which has 13 proofs-of-concept (POC) around the globe, there are no Canadian cities involved in the initial pilot project.“There are two communities that are interested and are at varying stages of engagement,” said Anand Chandrasekher, vice-president and director of Intel sales and marketing group. “There’s nothing set in stone yet. There’s lots of interest and discussions ongoing.”
There are, however, a number of wireless initiatives in cities and governments across the country. The City of Toronto, for example, recently issued a request-for-proposal to put in a public access wireless hotspot on a six-month pilot basis at Nathan Philips Square, a city official recently confirmed. The RFP has now closed but the city has yet to reward the contract to the successful bidder as the proposals are under review by the city’s legal and purchasing departments, said Michael Franey, director of computer operations and telecommunications services for the City of Toronto. Toronto expected to implement the project before the end of the summer.
“We have to look at the business case to see if the cost of the service warrants it beyond the pilot period,” said Franey. “This is something that’s experimental. If there’s no business case to do that we’d have to reconsider our plans.”
Once implemented, anybody within the Nathan Philips Square vicinity will be able to use their mobile laptops or PDAs to check e-mail or browse the Internet. Franey said the city will try to offer the service free-of-charge or at minimal cost to taxpayers.
The cost of wireless access, however, became a contentious issue recently when Philadelphia’s city government — one of the 13 POC cities that participated in Intel’s pilot project — decided to sell wireless access to downtown residents last year. Lobbyists in the U.S. are currently pressuring Congress to decide whether governments or private companies should be selling Internet access.
The City of Calgary launched a federally and provincially funded initiative in 2003 called Wireless City, which includes four hotspots in the downtown core. These include the Calgary Municipal Building, the W.R. Castell Central Library, Olympic Plaza and Stephen Avenue Walk. Other wireless initiatives include the City of Fredericton, which offers free wireless Internet across the city, and the City of Hamilton, which is currently engaged in a six-month trial in which Wi-Fi networks are being used to read 200 smart meters. Hamilton plans to install 100,000 smart meters, which measure customers’ electrical consumption per hour and report it back to the Hamilton Utilities Corporation, by the end of 2007. Other applications of the technology include enabling emergency service workers to remotely monitor vehicle locations.

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