Village council has given the green light to a proposal that could see free WiFi service extended to the Lakeside Multiplex and Spirit Square.
At its June 23 regular meeting, council unanimously approved a motion to consider the project – which could also result in free public internet access inside the Tom Forsyth Memorial Arena and curling rink – as part of its 2016 budget deliberations.
According to Bernice Crossman, director of finance for the village, members of the public already have limited access to the internet within portions of the Lakeside Multiplex. The service isn’t currently advertised or promoted, though.
“The coverage area (inside the multiplex) is only the reception and gym area,” Crossman told council in a June 3 memorandum. “The system is password protected, but the password is given out if requested… The coverage area (within the building) could be boosted to include the entire building for a one-time hardware/labour cost of $1,000 and no change to the monthly cost.”
Extending free WiFi coverage to all areas of the multiplex and Spirit Square would require an investment of $5,180 and add another $135 to the village’s monthly operating costs.
Still, she said, the proposal has merit. In addition to encouraging more people to use the facilities in question, it might improve security within them. “A benefit to the installation of the hardware specified above is that there is a probability we could run wireless security cameras to cover the Spirit Square and Radley Beach area through this system.”
Crossman acknowledged that offering free WiFi in the multiplex and Spirit Square might encourage loitering, but preferred to emphasize its benefits. “While loitering has the potential to increase littering and vandalism, it also can be good for business,” she pointed out.
The prospect of having free access to the internet is already generating some excitement. A number of participants at last week’s National Aboriginal Day celebrations in Spirit Square welcomed the idea.
“I come to the beach every nice day in the summer, and it would be great to be able to go on Facebook and other sites for free,” said one individual who preferred not to be named.
“Free internet access here?” asked another. “When can I sign up?”
While a positive investment decision by council could see free WiFi access available in the multiplex/Spirit Square area as early as next year, it’s unlikely the service will be extended to other portions of the municipality any time soon.
Council members elected not to provide free public WiFi in the village’s downtown core after Crossman told them it would require an initial investment of $20,290 and add another $11,760 in annual operating costs.
She also suggested that it might not be well-received by the business community here.
“The Village of Burns Lake should not be seen to be actively competing with commercial enterprises,” she stated in her memorandum. “… There are a few businesses, restaurants, etc., that currently offer free WiFi as an incentive to generate customers. These businesses may object to a free public WiFi offering across the downtown core as it would remove their attraction.”
Council’s 2016 budget deliberations will likely start this fall.