Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Shut the Front Door!

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The Sausage Factory, and it’s dead-tree edition, continue to be immensely disappointed at the failure of Mayor Sam Katz to follow through with his promise to blanket the city’s downtown in free WIFI Internet access. This was one of the few pledges Katz made in his original election campaign that aimed to actually transform the city, and not just patch it up. Katz ultimately unveiled his grand plan – a pay-for-use contract with Manitoba Telecom Services to provide WIFI in city-owned buildings including libraries, recreation centres and pools.As much as I’m disappointed with that sham of a plan, nothing could prepare me for my disappointment at what has been done WIFI-wise at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. I am currently covering the Crystal Taman inquiry, which is being held at the WCC. This city-owned facility formerly offered WIFI through the Bell-Rogers-Fido-Telus “Hotspot” consortium. Although it was pay-for-use, it was very reliable and a great spot to stop for WIFI downtown (open long hours, lots of places to sit down, no need to buy a coffee just to justify a quick WIFI hit). Now, however, the WCC is providing its own WIFI, and doing so in a rather obscene fashion.First, after signing on to the WCC WIFI homepage, you find out that you cannot subscribe to their service on-line. You have to call a phone number to register and pay. Making wifi customers dial in to create an account is so incredibly backward, I don’t know what to say. But it’s only after calling the number listed on the homepage that the real joke is unveiled.Get ready - $100 for two days worth of access.Shut the front door!Most commercial WIFI ISPs offer their services for between $30 and $40 per month, unlimited access. Even on a daily basis, it would be hard to find a service that charges more than about $15.So, the marquee meeting place in Winnipeg, the place where we welcome all kinds of conventions, trade shows and special events is offering WIFI that you cannot subscribe to on line and at a rate that puts it well outside the budget of even the wealthiest business traveller. We just can't get this one right. Even in our public libraries, where hard-wired internet access if free, we cannot do what virtually every other library in North America has done - offer free wireless to acknowledge the new wireless age.I have a suggestion for the new city slogan.Winnipeg: Enduringly Backward.-30-

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About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.

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