City council considering implementing public wifi at municipal facilities, a supplemental budget ask

City considers public wifi

As budget talks continue, Kamloops city council is considering an ask to implement public wifi in some municipal facilities like the Sandman Centre.

The supplemental budget item — one of 12 introduced to mayor and council on Feb. 8 — is a response to feedback from the community, according to Kathy Humphrey, the city’s corporate services director.

“We are quite often asked to enhance, improve, provide wifi in a whole variety of locations around the community, particularly at our indoor facilities,” Humphrey said.

According to a staff report prepared for the committee of the whole, the city provides public wifi in some facilities, but the service is limited, and doesn’t provide adequate coverage, speed or reliability. The report said there isn’t access to responsive support when problems occur.

Humphrey said the city doesn’t have internal resources to provide and maintain a bolstered wifi service, so it would ideally enter into a service contract with a provider who could maintain and upgrade wifi and tackle any problems that arise.

Staff have proposed a number of options for mayor and council to consider.

The option recommended by staff — providing wifi for a prioritized list of indoor venues — would cost $563,000 over the first three years, with an annual expense of $175,000 in following years, according to the report.

The most costly option is to provide wifi for some indoor and outdoor facilities, including the Sandman Centre, the McArthur Island Curling Club and the Canada Games Aquatics Centre, along with Riverside Park, skate parks and baseball and soccer fields.

A staff report indicates this option could cost over $800,000 per year for the first two years — 2022 and 2023 — although staff said it's difficult to estimate the expense of installing wifi in outdoor spaces.

Other options include implementing a wifi solution using internal resources, providing no change to internet service, or decommissioning existing wifi service altogether.

Coun. Denis Walsh said he hadn’t personally received any complaints from the public about wifi.

“I don't really believe that it's the city's responsibility because somebody doesn't have a data plan,” Walsh said.

Humphrey said allowing the public to use existing commercial options like Shaw Go or #TELUS is an option.

“The consequence of doing that is just that council and administration needs to support that decision. When people ask for better wifi, or complain that the wifi is too slow, the response is that we don't provide wifi, that it is provided for free through Shaw and Telus so please talk to them,” Humphrey said.

Coun. Sadie Hunter asked if staff had explored the idea of providing public wifi in main commercial areas or in the downtown core.

Humphrey said staff can take this idea back to the IT team to see if providing wifi for non-sport facility outdoor spaces would have a significantly different cost.

The public has the opportunity to provide feedback on all supplemental budget items throughout February and March, with a public budget meeting scheduled for March 10.

Information on supplemental budget items, including public wifi, can be found on the city's Let's Talk page.

The committee of the whole will review supplemental items again at its meeting on April 5.

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