Grassroots Wi-Fi project off to a slow start in Victoria

Business association happy with progress of its own Wi-Fi service

Three months since a grassroots initiative scored a $3,500 grant to launch wireless Internet service downtown, the project has hit a speed bump.

“We are a bit behind,” admitted Liam McLachlan, volunteer project manager for the non-profit named MeshMesh.

In February, it was the darling of community judges belonging to the Awesome Sh*t Club, which doles out small grants to help community groups launch “awesome” ideas.

MeshMesh pitched a plan to convince downtown businesses to share their Internet with the public, simply by installing a router to send their wireless signal to anyone within approximately 30 metres.

Six businesses signed on, each paying $150 for the hardware. In exchange, an ad for their business flashes on the screen of people logging on.

But today there are still only six business signed on, serving six to 15 people with free Wi-Fi each day.

“The interest is still there, people are still getting in touch with us,” McLachlan said, adding the volunteers at MeshMesh are too busy with their day jobs to respond.

Meanwhile, the Downtown Victoria Business Association launched its own $25,000 Wi-Fi network April 19. It targets pedestrian traffic at nine of the heaviest traffic areas downtown.

“It’s thriving,” said Ken Kelly, DVBA general manager. “We’re pleased with it. We’ve got as many as 40 users at any one moment in time.”

The association plans to monitor the new service over the summer and may expand the service, pending results.

McLachlan welcomes the business group’s initiative, saying the more Wi-Fi coverage downtown, the better.

And despite the slow start for MeshMesh, he’s not giving up. Rather, he’s now calling out for more volunteers. People are needed to sell the idea to more businesses and help install routers.

McLachlan also hopes to attract a group of more technically-capable volunteers for a different, but related goal of MeshMesh: to enable food carts or other market vendors to use it for high-speed debit and credit transactions.

“We think that would make open-air markets a lot more accessible,” he said. “It’s a real benefit to those small businesses, because then it’s a no-cost, or low-cost, merchant service for them.”

Free Wi-Fi is also catching on in Saanich. Municipal buildings such as recreation centres, fire halls and the municipal hall now offer the service.

“I think, in general, it’s becoming a bit of an expectation that the service of Wi-Fi is provided,” said Jon Woodland, assistant manager of infrastructure in Saanich’s information technology department.

Next up, Saanich is looking for partnerships that can help provide free Wi-Fi at parks during municipal events.

– with files from Kyle Slavin

rholmen@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Saanich councillors slow to respond for feedback on council procedures

Among calls for procedural changes, staff still waiting to hear from six councillors

Saanich sponsors Jeux de la Francophonie giving $50,000 for the French-language Games

Couns. Susan Brice and Nathalie Chambers opposed funding, citing substantive and procedural concerns

VicPD arrest reportedly armed man wanted on Canada-wide warrant

The man was found near Centennial Square on Tuesday afternoon

Port Renfrew man charged with animal cruelty

Hot coffee poured on dog’s face, say police

Sarah McLachlan performs and donors raise $555,000 for inclusive outdoor activities

Power To Be reached their fundraising goal at their Nature Gala on July 12

VIDEO: Black bear caught climbing tree in Langford neighbourhood

Triangle Mountain residents on alert following bear sighting

Report of dead body in B.C. park actually headless sex doll

This discovery, made at Manning Park on July 10, led police to uncovering two other sex mannequins

Grand Forks fire chief found to have bullied, harassed volunteer firefighter: report

WorkSafeBC, third-party human resources investigation looking into allegations complete

Taekwondo instructor, 21, identified as B.C. bat rabies victim

Nick Major, 21, an instructor at Cascadia Martial Arts in Parksville

15-year-old with imitation gun caused ‘dynamic’ scene at Nanaimo mall

No one was harmed in Monday’s incident, say Nanaimo RCMP

B.C. on right road with tougher ride-hailing driver rules, says expert

The provincial government is holding firm that ride-hailing drivers have a Class 4 licence

RCMP investigating alleged ‘sexual misconduct’ by cyclist on BCIT campus

BCIT said they were reviewing video evidence of the incident

New home cost dips in B.C.’s large urban centres

Victoria, Kelowna, Vancouver prices decline from last year

Graphic suicide scene edited out of ‘13 Reasons Why’ finale

Suicide prevention groups support the decision

Most Read