The Ghetto: unplugged

Kingston-based Internet provider hooks Ghetto up with free wireless

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Students returning to Kingston next month will be able to surf the Internet for free with the creation of a new free wireless network.

Ockham Communications, a Kingston-based Internet service provider, composed of a few Queen’s graduates, started installing six devices needed to create a wireless network around the Ghetto.

The network, called Mi Wifi, will cover the area bordered by University Avenue and Earl, Princess and Division Streets.

Ockham Communications president Shawn Gee, MBA ’07, said he and his partners started working on the idea when they were still studying at Queen’s and received $20,000 from the First Capital Challenge, a competition that gives up to $50,000 to help a local start-up company develop an idea.

Gee said Ockham looked at other urban municipalities with free wireless networks and thought the same could be done for the Ghetto.

“We saw the opportunity to do something in a smaller market like Kingston,” he said. “We looked at Toronto and in Ottawa and thought something like that could do well in Kingston.”

Gee said he isn’t worried about negative responses from other internet service providers if students stop subscribing to them in favour of the free wireless network because the area being outfitted is relatively small.

“That’s why we’re going to an area that’s less than 100,000 people,” he said. “We don’t see it as a place that Bell or Cogeco have entered the market. We don’t see any of them offering a service for free.”

Gee said Ockham will make sure the service remains free by selling advertising space on the network.

“We’ve got companies like Microsoft, Coca Cola and Honda that are paying to advertise,” he said. “We get revenue per subscriber, and that’s based on the page you see when you get ready to access the network, the page after you login, and the banner advertising while you’re surfing the Internet.”

Gee said the network will be up and running in about two weeks.

Garrett Quinn, ArtSci ’10, said he wasn’t aware of the free wireless network, but said he’ll still rely on his current Internet provider to go online.

“It’s pretty sweet, but we’ll probably keep our own Internet because it’s more reliable,” he said.

Quinn said he’s skeptical about open networks, but will use it out of necessity if the need arises.

“Some of those public networks can mess with your computer, but it’ll be nice to use if our Internet ever goes out.” AMS Municipal Affairs Commissioner Paul Tye said he was pleasantly surprised to hear about the free wireless network.

“It’ a great service in terms of increasing the quality of life for students close to campus,” he said. “If the system works and it’s profitable for the company, then it will expand for more students.”

Tye said he thinks the network is an indication of the direction that Queen’s and Kingston needs to go.

“It may be a good eye-opener for the city and the University that wireless is becoming an essential service,” he said. “Instead of private individual networks, having networks that the whole community can benefit from is a natural step forward.”

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