By Karlene Skretting
Westwind Weekly News
Imagine sitting at the pool or arena waiting for your child to change clothes and being able to respond to an important work email, without racking up costs to your own personal data plan, and without jumping from Wi-Fi network to Wi-Fi network. Or being able to upload a smiling selfie to Facebook after your hole-in-one shot on the ninth hole green of the golf course.
The four member Raymond Broadband Committee is working towards making this a reality by providing free WiFi at all the community facilities in town.
“WiFi can really be a lot of things to a lot of people … (and it) is a service that very few other municipalities offer,” expressed Counc. Greg Robinson who also serves as the chair of the recently formed Raymond Broadband Committee.
The idea first started when Robinson suggested making WiFi availability in all public buildings a priority because of the many benefits it would bring both locals and visitors to the community.
The list of current proposed locations includes: the ice arena, pool, golf course, community center, museum, town office, library, camp ground, rodeo grounds grandstand, ball diamond and seniors center.
“There is a proven fact in terms of economic development that if someone spends more than three hours when visiting a town or facility, they are much more likely to spend money … So when it comes to the ice arena, pool and golf course, we want individuals to be able to come if they need to stay connected for work or pleasure and do those things without feeling like they are draining their own data plans and not feel rushed.”
The added service will also allow users to attend to import business matters while still being able to support their families and children in their various recreation pursuits. It is invaluable for many to not be stuck at home in front of their computer screen and still be connected to coworkers and customers.
Funding was approved to purchase the WiFi equipment for the project in the last council meeting of 2014.
The committee is hoping that the components will be installed by the end of March in at least some of the major seasonal buildings, with the remaining facilities to be connected by the end of spring.
Raymond is planning to model their WiFi hotspots after what Waterton implemented and will be using the same type of equipment. Though the Broadband Committee admits they do not know how heavily the service will be used, it has been a big hit in Waterton and will require no additional networking costs at this point because it will run on a high speed connection that the town already uses and pays for.
“From what Waterton has shared the ongoing maintenance costs are extremely low, we don’t expect any substantial costs going forward.” Robinson is excited about the speed in which the project is coming together and the many opportunities the WiFi will provide.
The main WiFi antenna is going to be housed at the community center. And the system is being designed to hopefully remember the network and automatically connect as users move between facilities after it has initially been signed on.
“This is only the first stage, getting the public recreational facilities up and running and connected to WiFi. The next leg is going to be having a WiFi zone in the downtown core,” he added. Allowing people access to the network inside local businesses, parked on Main Street or walking down the sidewalk in the area.
“I know it only sounds like WiFi, but it is really impactful in what it can do for people (and the community)…”