Free city wifi now available in Queen’s Park, Uptown

You can now access free wifi in Queen’s Park, the New Westminster Public Library, and the Uptown business district, courtesy of the City of New Westminster.

Wifi access will be available for up to 15 users per location at Queen’s Park, New Westminster Public Library and the Uptown Business District at 6th Avenue and 6th Street. Access codes for each location are:

  • Queen’s Park – 1122
  • New Westminster Public Library – 3388
  • Uptown Business District – 2233

During the pilot project, users will be limited to Wifi access for one hour per day. Access point hardware and technology is provided by Bell and Motorola.

I asked New Westminster’s Chief Technology Officer Alvin Chok via email about the limitations on access, and this is what he had to say:

Briana: Could you please tell me why the wifi access is limited to only 15 users, and only one hour per day? How is this enforced?

Alvin: Right now, our Internet pipe is via a coupled T-1, which has a limited data capacity of 3 mbs; henceforth, we have to limit the number of concurrent users as well.  However, we are replacing the T-1 with a bigger E-100 pipe (100 mbs) which should be ready by mid-August (according to our telecommunications vendor). We should be able to accommodate more users then.

Users can try out the Wi-fi network for an hour and their sessions will automatically terminate after an hour.  However, we do not strictly enforce the one-hour per day rule. Having said that, we would like to ask our users to be considerate so that others can try it out as well.

Briana: Is the access code entered as a network key, or is it similar to how many airport hot spots work, where users are redirected to a browser page where they must key in a password or sign up for paid service?

Alvin: The user must enter the access code in order to access the Wi-Fi network. It is a login screen via the Datavalet gateway.

Briana: Does the wifi access work with smartphones such as iPhone and iPads? I ask only because I’ve had trouble accessing gated wifi systems using my iPhone, particularly those that rely on an Internet Explorer start page to gain access.

Alvin: Good question – I tried on my Blackberry and it seemed to work without the need to go to Internet Explorer. We have not tested the Ipad yet.

The pilot project will continue until December 2010. Following the pilot project, city staff will evaluate the performance and reliability of the wireless technology, assess user feedback and review potential for improving municipal operation efficiencies. Based on the findings, a recommendation as to whether or not to expand Wifi across the City will be made to City Council for consideration.

In the media release announcing the project, the wifi initiative was described as being part of New Westminster’s long-term “Livable City” strategy to attract businesses, residents and visitors to the Royal City.

Restaurant review: Los Generales

Good food. Cheap prices. Cheery service. Free wifi. Booze.

It may look humble, with its homemade signage and rather drab, dated decor, but Los Generales at 334 Sixth St.delivers a surprisingly warm, satisfying, authentic Mexican culinary experience. It is well worth a visit.

Chicken enchilada smothered in green tomatillo sauce at Los Generales in New Westminster
Chicken enchilada smothered in green tomatillo sauce at Los Generales in New Westminster

If your experience of Mexican cooking has so far been limited to chain restaurant fajitas, quesadillas and tacos, you may be surprised at the wholesome simplicity of the food. Cast Taco Bell expectations aside, and you’ll soon appreciate the homey fare Los Generales has to offer.

The tortilla chips with homemade green or red salsa are bottomless and the portions are generous. I had the chicken enchiladas with green tomatillo sauce, and it was delicious, filling, and cost only $7! Fellow TTTF crew Will and Jocelyn were with me as well. Jocelyn had the four-taco platter (also $7) and Will chose the Platillo de Carnitas de Puerco (slow-cooked pork served with rice, refried beans and cheese) for $8.50. All satisfying comfort food!

Los Generales on UrbanspoonAs for the booze, the margaritas are pleasantly lime-y and the glasses sport sugared rims. The beer is served in frosted mugs with a twist of lime.

The booze isn’t as good a bargain as the food, though pricing is still within restaurant standards. The margaritas are $7 and $8, and beer ranges from $5-7. A couple at a neighbouring table ordered mojitos that quickly became objects of envy, with the fresh mint leaves tucked in the icy glasses. They assured us the drinks tasted as good as they looked.

Tasty margaritas at Los Generales
Tasty margaritas at Los Generales

Fellow Royal City blogger Dave Marchuk also reports in his review of Los Generales that the Blue Margarita ($7) is ‘exceptional’ and the cheddar cheese and chorizo sausage appetizer ($8) is also excellent. Dave says the chicken burrito was the best he’s ever had – and his date’s chicken enchilada was ‘unbelievably yummy.’ He also sings the praises of the minty mojitos.

All in all, Los Generales is a worthy new addition to the New Westminster restaurant scene, with top-notch food and service, and lots of memorable little touches that deliver a great experience.

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