One of the most exciting projects I’ve been able to work on lately is the Free WiFi project here in Edmonton. Our goal is to bring free, accessible wireless Internet access to our community, but in a responsible way. That means we’re not trying to blanket the city with coverage, but instead are focusing on areas of high density and places where people are inclined to sit down and pull out their laptop or handheld device.
In the last few weeks the project has really started to gain some traction. We’re up to ten locations now (most along Whyte Avenue) and The Edmonton Journal did an article on the project last Saturday that made the front page of the CityPlus section. They interviewed Eric Warnke, who got the ball rolling:
While he estimated it would theoretically take about 22,000 routers to cover the entire city, this isn’t their goal because it isn’t practical, he says.
Anyone using the Wi-Fi network first reaches a splash page carrying the ads that help pay for the project and what Warnke hopes will eventually be local information.
As one of five people in the Free WiFi organization, he’d like it to become a profitable business someday instead of a break-even proposition.
Right now though, we’re focused on growth. We want to get as many locations in the network as possible! We’re also experimenting with some different technologies, and learning what we can about how to improve the network.
To help us do that, we’ve decided to offer free wireless at the Fringe. Now in its 27th year, the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is the largest festival of its kind in North America. More than 500,000 people will visit the grounds over the next ten days, and we’re guessing that at least a few of them would find wifi access useful.
We just got the nodes on the Fringe grounds setup today, so we’re still tinkering a little. This is our first mobile installation. Hopefully over the next couple days we’ll find the optimal locations and the wireless network will be quick and reliable!
If you’re in Edmonton at the Fringe, be sure to look for the Free WiFi network on your wireless device. You can learn more about the project at http://www.free-wifi.ca.
UPDATE: For further details on the technology behind the Fringe wireless, check out Eric’s post.