Towards a Wireless City *UPDATED WITH MAP*

SEE OUR CHALLENGE BELOW – TELL US YOUR FAVOURITE WIRELESS CAFE HOTSPOT!

I am one of those people who works better when I have a din of white noise behind me, when I’m in a place with a good feel, surrounded by people but not in demand. For me, coffee and good work go hand in hand, so it’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have spent the majority of my university years (both undergrad and post-grad) doing my studying and schoolwork in coffee shops.

When I lived at SFU, I was able to give my business to the locally owned SFU institution Renaissance Coffee and the new organic sustainably-minded joint, Nature’s Garden Organic Deli run by SFU alumni Bill and Doris. What I loved about these places is that they had free wireless internet for patrons, good seating for using a computer, and a friendly atmosphere. Though the food at Renaissance wasn’t my favourite, and their “organic-ness” is in dispute, they were open the latest of the on-campus coffee places and their internet was provided through the SFU wireless system. Nature’s Garden had great organic food, cheap coffee and nice people. In a pinch, I’d frequent the Starbucks at Kensington and Hastings which featured a long study table with several outlets, strong fast internet access (at a steep price), and great white noise.

Now that I live off campus and am a working professional, I still enjoy a good wireless cafe for those times that I’m blogging at T2F or Disadventure, or for when I’m finishing up my thesis work. However, when I’m in New West visiting Will and Briana (also T2F creators), there are no good wireless cafes to go to if you want to support local business.

Now some of you would argue this, citing Blenz at 6th and 6th (a Canadian franchise) which provides free wireless to customers but has no outlets available, and the six Starbucks locations all over the city, which provide wireless internet free for two hours with a valid starbucks card code. However – given this city’s many students, the popular coffee culture, and the increasing popularity and dependence on wireless internet devices, if a New West native like me is unable to identify a good, locally owned wireless internet cafe, I think there aren’t enough to meet the demand. Even the amazing former Yaletownish eatery in New West’s Uptown, The Orange Room, had no internet access for patrons.

Two wireless cafe-finding resources, notably Vancouver.wifimug.org (a user-generated index of wireless cafes in Greater Vancouver that has sadly fallen far out of date) and nodeDB.com show no updated listings of New West wireless cafes. If a student, person traveling on business, or any of the growing throng of Blackberry and iPhone users travelled through New West, they’d find no convenient, social place to connect – either to the internet or to other people. For those who are unfamiliar, let me let you in on the culture of wireless internet that seems to have changed our society: I believe that this lack of connection makes a lasting statement about our community to visitors and residents alike that we are stuck, isolated and unconnected. Sure, that might be dramatic, but New West is perpetually on the precipice of transformation from one-trick ‘historic town’ pony to a multi-dimensional, multi-generational dynamic city. So you say New Westminster is a historic little town which isn’t trying to be the next Silicon Valley – I say check out touristy and historic litle LaConner (with less than 1000 municipal citizens) where my parents live, provides wireless internet to downtown visitors and residents free of charge. The signal in the streets is strong enough to check your e-mail, but step into your favourite bookstore/cafe where they provide broadband wireless and power outlets so you can stop for a bite, a book, and a browse on the internet if you need it.

I greatly appreciate the cafes without plugs or wireless internet, so I can sit and chat with my friends and enjoy the time spent in a nice social environment. But I assure you, it’s not those cafes I keep an index of in my head – it’s the cafes with a strong wireless signal, at least one accessible power outlet, and a reasonable coffee environment that I remember. Since wireless internet became widely available (and as cheap as a one-time $90 wireless router and broadband access at $40/month), many have remarked how wireless internet has improved business for coffee shops and bookstores, even giving them an edge over the big-chain franchises like Starbucks and McDonalds, who charge for internet usage.

“For me, it’s about creating a coffeehouse experience that’s relevant to my customers,” says Jody Hall, who opened Verité Coffee in Madrona six month ago with free Wi-Fi in mind. She estimates that an average of 25 to 30 customers use the service daily. “In today’s culture, wireless is part of our daily lives. I want our coffeehouse to be a place people meet and gather, and if that’s something they need for their meeting, then I want to have that.”

(…)

“What it did for us initially was get the word out about us quickly,” says Michael Prins, owner of Herkimer Coffee, which opened with Wi-Fi available a year ago.

“I think it is a big draw,” says Anya Webb, owner of Fremont Coffee. She suspects she’s stealing at least a little bit of business from the Caffe Ladro across the street (where the Wi-Fi is not free). “It brings people in.”

(Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Wi-fi’s on the (coffee) house, 01/07/04)

There is one main reason that many cafes provide only a signal and not appropriate seating or power outlets – they need or want to limit the number of people like me, who occupy seating for paying customers while using up the internet. However, I encourage the locally-owned coffee shops in New West to reconsider providing free internet access to patrons as part of their business model – both to present a connected, dynamic face to the customer, and also to give them a leg up on the big-chain opposition, making local business ultimately more successful. It’s completely fair game to restrict the signal to paying customers (as Blenz does) to ensure your signal brings the return it is supposed to. Another approach for small cafes is to post signage reserving some seating for non-computer customers during peak hours to ensure seating is available for the non-career internet users in the cafe.


Here’s my standard for a “good” wireless cafe:

- appropriate seating, including chairs and tables or bar-height chairs and counters

- a strong, uncomplicated wireless signal (password or not)

- 1-2 accessible power outlets.

Wireless Internet Cafes in New West:

- Blenz Coffee: 6th and 6th (Uptown): Wireless signal; password protected for customers only; plenty of seating but no power outlets

- Starbucks Coffee (Multiple Locations: Westminster Centre on 6th Street; E. Columbia & Sherbrooke; Columbia & 6th Ave*; McBride Blvd & 8th Ave. See also Burnaby Crossing, at 10th Ave & 6th Street) Limited/Pay Usage only. Westminster Centre, Royal Square have no power outlets; E.Columbia & Sherbrooke, 6th & Columbia have one or more outlets available. Columbia and 6th Ave’s internet has not been working for the last month. December 2008.

Sounds Promising (listings unverified):

- The Hide Out Cafe: 716 Carnarvon Street (Downtown). Cafe, deli, organic & internet access.

Other free wireless internet sources in New West:

- The New Westminster Public Library (6th Avenue at 7th Street) Wireless Internet access is governed by the library’s Internet Access Policy, and is available throughout the building. A table is reserved for laptop users requiring cable internet access, with 4 ethernet cables and power outlets. Ten study carrels are also equipped with power outlets.

What do you think? Share with us your favourite places to chill out and plug in. What do you think about wi-fi users in public cafes? Help T2F assemble an up-to-date list of wireless cafes in New Westminster.

Here’s a map of wireless internet locations so far:


View Larger Map

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12 thoughts on “Towards a Wireless City *UPDATED WITH MAP*”

  1. Your search is over!! Time to discover The Village Coffee Lounge, 705 12th Street. Best Coffee in New West. Free Wireless Internet. Seats 25 at tables and Window Bar. Open 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM Mon to Friday… 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM Saturday. Open Sunday by appointment for High Tea. Sandwiches, Muffins and Bagels, Desserts,and the Best Pulled Pork on focacia around. debit,MC,Visa. 604-522-8567

  2. John! I was hoping you would comment on this. I wrote this with you in mind, because after you commented on my post about the STarbucks snow fiasco, I drove by your place to see if it had wireless internet. Your sidewalks looked great but I couldn’t find a place to park and I wasn’t sure whether you had wireless or not. Now I know, and be sure you’ll meet me one of these days!

  3. Thanks Jocelyn.
    these cold winter days no one has parking due to snow. In our residential areas we stand on guard with our snow shovels, waiting to beat off anyone taking the spot we painfully cleared. However, on a normal day we have a “caffeine loading Zone” ahead of the Bus Stop (Legal before 8AM) and lots of parking around the corner to the right (an unmarked street known to some as Kelvin St)and metered parking up and down 12th.
    New Westminster is trying to turn the city into a pedestian friendly walkable city and they are trying to send vehicles to the same destiny as the horse and buggy.
    So come take a walk on the cleared sidewalks and once the snow has been cleared on the side roads, drive in for a coffee and a little R&R.

  4. Hey Jocelyn, If you are close enough to my house, I will give you the log in for my wi-fi, ha ha ha. I’m going to wander on down to the Village. John, do you serve chai? If there’s no chai, I don’t have anything on the menu to drink.

  5. Jen! Thanks for the offer. Part of the issue is the whole “coffeehouse” atmosphere. The white noise, the lack of people to talk to, the feeling of being somewhere nice instead of cooped up in my room. I’ve written some of my best papers in a starbucks.

    I’m a sucker for that “third place experience” they talk about.

    I think John said something on the last post about serving tea as well. Are you allergic to caffeine, Jen? I love Chai. yummm

  6. Nah, I just think coffee sucks. :) I grew up with a British mom and as a result, only drink tea. I can’t stand the flavour of coffee and it actually makes me laugh the amount of times people offer me a mocha, say, and say “but its not coffee!” uh, yeah. It is. I have a recipe for homemade chai that is killer, but there is something about going into a coffee shop and getting it made for me that feels like a luxury I can afford.

  7. Jen,
    Come down if you haven’t as yet. Open at 6 AM. Robin at 9AM. We serve Whistler Chai Latte’and a regular loose Chai Tea (and others). We also serve “Red Rooibos” tea which is caffeine free and made into similar forms as coffee Latte’s etc. using the espresso machine. We offer Wi-Fi, debit, muffins, bagels, and our famous ham, egg and swiss cheese breakfast Panini.
    Bring in your Chai recipe we’ll promote it as “Jens Chai” you will be famous and possibly rich with royalties as well.

    Thanks for your support Jocelyn!

    1. Waves on Columbia and Begbie, hands down, has the best Wifi in town – available free from 6am till midnight everyday!! And, their coffee rocks!!

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