City staff recommends study on providing free WiFi for downtown

Recommendation is to spend $15k to complete study by end of 2018

City of Sarnia staff have responded to a City Council request in December 2017 to explore the costs of bringing free WiFi connectivity to the downtown core with a proposal to study the issue, which would be done through Bluewater Regional Networks.

A recommendation in the form of Notice of Motion will go before City Council at its Monday, March 19 meeting.

Council is being asked to shift up to $15,000 from its Computer Equipment Reserve to pay for the study.

Although the rough estimate for actually providing WiFi is not yet known, based on other installations, the cost of providing service to a single City block could be between $140,000 and $168,000, not including ongoing operating costs.

“To present accurate financial numbers and move forward, it is recommended that we create a comprehensive plan that includes considerations for both capital and operating (costs),” said the motion to Council, which was prepared by Mark Dillon, the City’s corporate manager of Information Technology.

Dillon said several groups had been consulted, including the e-commerce task force at the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce and the Sarnia Tech Community, among others.

The comprehensive study would be completed this year, the motion to Council said.

Dillon’s document also outlines the limitations of WiFi reception, including a life cycle that could be between three and five years, due to changing in consumer standards and the typically high rate of failure of wireless technology.

There are also long-term operating considerations to be taken, including competition with local internet service providers. Those issues would be part of a consulting process that would be done prior to any implementation.

There are currently no funds set aside for the project.

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