The opportunity to access free Wi-Fi in Parkdale is about to get a lot easier.
By the end of the month, Parkdalians who do not have access to high speed internet or data on their phones will be able to access Wi-Fi from Sorauren Avenue to Dufferin Street for free. No sign up required.
The connection is provided by reBOOT Canada, a Toronto-based registered charity that recycles and refurbishes computer equipment and provides low cost access to technology, software and computer education to help organizations and individuals get and stay connected.
It’s partnered with Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre (PARC), 1499 Queen St. W and Parkdale Community Legal Services (PCLS), 1266 Queen St. W to offer the ‘ReBOOT ReLAY’ Wi-Fi connection. Both buildings will serve as anchors for the connection.
Both received a $750 grant, hardware and some coordination help with set up. The charity is looking to expand its reach beyond providing computers by offering to help Toronto communities in need connect to the internet.
“Our thought was how do we build on this notion of technology access and how do we go beyond the laptop to other things that are important to people? Especially in 2016 and one of those things is Wi-Fi access,” said Frank Rota, the executive director of reBOOT Canada.
“What we’re trying to do is go to communities and partner with other community organizations there that have a store front we can access and be able to provide Wi-Fi access and, additionally, awareness around the services that are available in that community.”
Parkdale is the first neighbourhood the charity has chosen to partner with and the ‘reBOOT ReLAY’ signal will run as a pilot project for one year in the community.
Raveen Gopaul, the manager of administration and technology at PARC, jumped at the opportunity to provide its members with free Wi-Fi because many simply don’t have access to the internet. There’s also no sign up required or requirement to purchase something to access the Wi-Fi, which can be a major deterrent for some in Parkdale.
“Here you don’t have to be a customer, you don’t have to buy anything. It’s just yours. If you’re somebody who is impoverished, if you can get your hands on a used device and have connectivity, that’s important. The internet is expensive and so is data,” GoPaul told The Villager.
“So the idea was to make it broadly available to as many people as possible. This is about accessibility. At our drop-in centre we have an internet café but we’re only open for four hours a day seven days a week.”
With this new connection, users of the internet café simply need a smartphone to connect to the internet to download file, look up directors or simply get the information they need 24 hours a day seven days a week.
“The internet now is an essential. It’s no longer a middle class luxury item. So much content is online and is required online,” GoPaul continued.
“We wanted to provide the opportunity to (connect) people who don’t have access because they can’t afford it.”
The Wi-Fi connection is currently in a soft launch phase, both PARC and ReBOOT Canada are monitoring the signal and connection traffic to make sure it works and to “provide the best possible experience” for users. The goal, GoPaul said, is to measure the success of the connection, which is why it’s a one-year pilot project. If enough people use it then it has the power to continue on and possibly expand.
“I really want it to be a success,” said GoPaul.
“I would love Queen Street to be a free wireless area that anybody can pick up the signal and use it without conditions and limits.”