Montreal WiFi

Why is it that a city (and province) that invested in multimedia and e-commerce, a city that prides itself in being a high tech hotspot, a city that is home to so many software, aerospace and biotech companies, why is it that there are virtually no WiFi hotspots?

I know New York is huge compared to Montreal, but looking at the coverage over there, I think our “per capita” is nowhere near their league. And now today Verizon announces the activation of 150 hotspots with 850 more the come, using their pay phones as hubs and including it free with their DSL offering. A solution that Bell Canada is testing but hasnt gone live with yet.

What’s going on? There should be more than a couple of libraries and two or three cafes, shouldnt there?

Disclaimer: I dont have a subscription to any local newspaper anymore and I dont listen to that much local news either so I might have missed something, I doubt it, but I might have. If so, I’d be happy to be corrected. 


Boris May 16, 2003

As far as I know you are right. It more than likely will start changing soon.

Disclaimer: I work at Colubris Networks (, a Laval based maker of high-end WiFi access points. The part of our product line aimed at the hotspot market is so “good” (ahem.. no really, it is…), that the big guns (Cometa, AT&T, Telus, SwissCom, Boeing, McDonalds) are starting to pick us over the competition (Cisco).

These guys are all in the “for-fee” hotspot WISP market though. What we need is more “grass-roots” free WiFi. Local cafe/bistro places need to be made aware that they can increase foot-traffic and increase customer retention (oh boy forgive the business jargon) by simply getting something liek an Apple Airport or a Sputnik AP and a DSL line (there are serious security issues there but hey, we’re talking about getting it out there!)

I would LOVE, for example, to make the Montreal Underground city a free WiFi zone, or some of our wonderful parks.

As always, our problem is the size of our “market”… too few people… The big players don’t see a yet a possibility of ROI. As paul Boutin in Slate ( said: “the telcos seem to be saying: If you come, we will build it.” So again, we need to talk to that cafe owner where we get our morning esspresso (and no I don’t mean Second Cup et al)… etc…


oh and congrats:

Patrick May 16, 2003

Wow!! My very first “owned” Google words! I’m so happy! ;)

Yeah, I’m waiting for the owner of my “prefered” cafe to come back from vacation and I’ll talk to him about it, would be sweet to have Wifi at a terasse 3 minutes from home. Wouldnt mind a couple of parks either.

Bosko June 17, 2003

I’m equally disappointed about the lack of open Wireless nodes in the city.

I recall in June 2002 driving up from USENIX in Monterey towards San Jose and downloading mp3s on the laptops, as well as much-needed traffic directions from, while hopping from open access point to open access point along the countryside/valley. Wireless is just so much bigger there.

Part of the problem may be geography and the other part is probably technology. Speaking from the perspective of someone working at a company that shall remain unnamed here in Montreal who is currently doing heavy testing, I can tell you that a big problem is reach. 802.11b, which has now become common and cheap, is simply too difficult to make money off of on a larger scale, from the perspective of an [W]ISP, especially in Montreal. Think buildings. Think Mt. Royal. Think line-of-sight. Think limitations on permitted signal strength.

Anyway, I think Boris up here makes a good point when he says that a strong movement needs to start as somewhat grassroots. Cafes need to really start finding this stuff cool and worth-it, in the sense that providing wireless makes them better than the competition. Is there a market, really? Do you think you can sell it? Start pestering your local coffee joints.

Patrick June 19, 2003

Yep, pester, pester and pester some more.

I’ve also noticed that there are quite a few WiFi networks that I can pick up in various locations but people dont leave them open for others to access freely, like seems to be frequent south of the border.

Bosko June 20, 2003

Patrick: Absolutely, and that’s a total shame. People need to be encouraged to setup _open_ access points at least during certain parts of the day and bandwidth-limit stuff coming in through the wireless interface.

I’m toying with the idea of explaining/demonstrating a simple open-access point setup with bandwidth-limiting on one of the freely available Unix-like OSes, possibly at the wifi meetup (, or at the LITW (Linux in the Wild) BBQ organised by the Ottawa Linux User Group ( this July in Ottawa. We’ll see.

Hak June 24, 2003

Well guys it’s very simple, if you would like to creat your own Wifi community, you must go head and try it, what does it cost, almost nothing and some times.
There is that French guys who made it up like check their website:
I belive that there is a big opportunity in Montreal.
Well let me know if you guys are intersted by that project could fun.

Steve June 30, 2003

I’m in the process of mapping out wifi access points in some of the downtown Montreal and Laval areas (I’m also a former collegue of Boris’… woe on me… ;) ); most of them have default setting and are not protected (see my website for the walkthrough)…

I’m only working part-time now and I’d be interested to help in any Montreal community wi-fi project…

I agree that the opportunity is there as well. :)


Michael Lenczner August 17, 2003

You asked for it. A bunch of us started it up. Come help us out at .

Mina September 1, 2003

Just to let everyone know that there is a community starting up, the aim of which is to provide free WIFI hotspots in Montreal.

For information and hotspot info, see

Patrick November 5, 2003

I am from Boston, and frequently go to Montreal on weekends, and was looking for a potential map of hotspots. As luck would have it the cafe has set up shop in is right next door to my hotel!

I thought it might be useful for you guys to check out It is an open network on Newbury street in Boston, comparable to say St Catherines area(no strip clubs or night clubs though!). They have some pretty useful information on how to set up and build a wifi network

Robin Y. Millette December 19, 2003

Another ressource about community driven wifi access in Montreal is Ile Sans Fil.

Patrick December 19, 2003

Not to be pissy here, Ile Sans Fil is a great project but perhaps you one post was enough? Not need to come one after the other and comment the same link guys ;)

Robin Y. Millette December 31, 2003

Oups, sorry Patrick – I don’t know how I missed the firsts posts about ISF. It probably won’t happen again ;)

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