Canada’s largest city aims to create Canada’s largest wireless broadband zone by the end of 2006. Toronto’s plan stands out as a potential ergonomic achievement because of the way the city and an associated utility company aim to utilize the zone. If it fulfills expectations, it will streamline scores of city services while giving the city better use out of what it describes as its underused fiber-optic network.
The system will blanket the city with radio signals reaching as high as 40 stories. Transmitters and receivers on utility poles will carry data to and from the headquarters of Toronto Hydro Corporation via fibre-optic lines already laid beneath city streets.
Toronto Hydro Telecom Inc., a subsidiary of Toronto Hydro, will offer the service. The telecom is fully owned by the City of Toronto, which also owns the fibre-optic network built to protect the electricity distribution system.
The Globe & Mail reported in March that Toronto Hydro bought the city’s street light system for Can. $60-million in 2005. The utility pole units are expected to eliminate spotty and difficult Internet connectivity. The system promises to deliver better communications for businesses and the public, but the benefits for city departments and agencies are equally compelling.
Toronto Hydro promotes it as a way to introduce real efficiency to the city’s libraries, transportation and safety systems. According to the Globe & Mail, the police will have easier access to their computer network, and officials will have a way to automate the monitoring of parking meters. The company’s “smart meter” plan will link into the network, and give Toronto Hydro a way to monitor electricity usage in homes and businesses over the Internet.
“It will be big, it will be unique, it will be fast,” Dave Dobbin, president of the telecom subsidiary told the Toronto Star newspaper in March.
The project makes Toronto a member of a small but growing club in North America. Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Orleans and Chicago have introduced municipal wireless Internet access in recent months. But the club may grow slowly. Some Canadian and United States major wireless carriers object to municipal wireless broadband projects. They charge that handing Internet connectivity to a municipal utility is basically giving that utility a monopoly.
Source: Toronto Hydro Telecom; Globe & Mail; Toronto Star