Toronto Wi-Fi Network Expected by Fall

Toronto will soon join a list of Wi-Fi enabled cities, as city utility Toronto Hydro will announce a plan in conjunction with municipal officials to offer wireless Internet access across the city. If all goes well, service in the downtown region could be available as early as this fall, sources told the Toronto Star newspaper.

New Orleans, Chicago and San Francisco are all considering plans to similarly blanket their towns with wireless Internet, with a project in Philadelphia currently the most advanced. The initiative is seen as a way to both boost tourism and attract businesses to those cities.

The networks also give municipalities a way of generating additional income, as well as to help bridge the so-called "digital divide," or the lack of Internet access among lower income residents. The moves have angered telecommunications companies, however, who see it as government encroachment on their businesses.

Municipal Wi-Fi is likely to be offered at a discount when compared to commercial services, which those companies see as a threat to their bottom line. Furthermore, some have accused cities of abusing their monopoly over taxpayer dollars.

Toronto Hydro, Canada's largest electrical supplier, owns the traffic light system in the city. The company will install transmitters about every fourth or fifth light to create a "mesh network."

While at first the network was intended to help read electric smart meters, the utility turned to offering its services to the general public to supplement its cost, the Star reported Monday.

It is not immediately clear if the utility would resell bandwidth on its network to third-party providers, as EarthLink is doing in Philadelphia.

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