In Brief-Computing Canada, August 4, 2006

Police concerns, poor street light poles snarl Wi-Fi project
TORONTO – Toronto Hydro Telecom said last month its Wi-Fi hot zone for the downtown core has been delayed several months due to unsuitable street light poles and police concerns about Internet crime.

The company originally announced the multi-phase project in March, and the first area to receive coverage, the city’s financial district, was scheduled to go live in June. The new date for that area, according to Toronto Hydro Telecom execs, will be Sept. 7.

The delay is due to a series of unforeseen circumstances, said vice-president of wireless Sharyn Gravelle. Toronto Hydro had bought the street light system from the City of Toronto – including 160,000 light poles – for $60 million. The company’s original plan was to use the poles to attach wireless access points.

That plan hit a snag when it was discovered that not all of the available poles were suitable candidates, as not all of them had 24/7 power. Also, some areas, such as the one around the Eaton Centre, are completely bereft of street lights since there is already enough ambient light from stores, displays and tourist attractions.

The second major reason for the delay was the number of concerns that law enforcement had raised around illegal or unsavory use of the Wi-Fi Internet service. The first six months of service will be available to Toronto residents and visitors free of charge, but Toronto Hydro Telecom was asked to devise a way to trace the network’s users. The solution was to text-message a login ID and password directly to users once they have supplied a cell phone number.
– Neil Sutton

Dexit scales back
TORONTO – In a bid to save money, Dexit Inc. announced last month that it has slashed its workforce by roughly half.

Dexit said it would reduce its staff from 55 to under 30 employees. The company, which provides a service that allows customers to pay for low-cost items using an RFID tag instead of cash, also said it will scale back the number of retail locations in downtown Toronto and the surrounding area that provide the service. Dexit says it currently has 450 merchant locations and 50,000 customers – up from 225 merchants and 25,000 customers in April 2004.
– Sarah Lysecki

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