The City of Vancouver is now home to what it is describing as among the largest free public Wi-Fi networks in North America.
The city has expanded the number of free hotspots from 80 to about 550 through a partnership with Shaw Communications Inc.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said the increase in free Wi-Fi throughout the downtown core and surrounding areas supports the city’s tourism and economic success, and bolsters its status as “a leading Smart City.”
Map of free public Wi-Fi locations in Vancouver
City of Vancouver chief digital officer Jessie Adcock said the new network will be important in closing down the “digital divide” between people with and without reliable internet access.
Social media reaction to the move has ranged from “a great way to democratize the internet” to “I wouldn’t use this. Too many chances your phone can get hacked.”
Adcock said that while “people have to be quite vigilant when using any public Wi-Fi network,” the new system is as safe as any other.
“Any Wi-Fi network is never going to be 100 per cent,” she said.
“That said, we use everything that we can to ensure that the anonymity and the privacy of the user is maintained.”
WATCH: Free WiFi proposed for Vancouver public spaces (2014)
Adcock said from the privacy side of the equation, the city is not collecting any information from users’ mobile devices.
“But I think people have the responsibility that they would have using any Wi-Fi network to access product services and they should ensure they’re using secure networks.”
The free Wi-Fi network has been in the works since 2014, and is being delivered at no cost to the city.
In the coming months, the network will expand to more than 600 locations throughout the city.
-With files from the Canadian Press