Free village Wi-Fi too costly for municipality 

Staff to work with resort partners on seamless service

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Tweeting about village concerts, updating Facebook about the resort vibe, and sending instant photos to friends around the world of the Whistler wonderland continues to be a challenge in the heart of the village.

And the bad news is that the municipality won't be stepping in to make it any easier any time soon.

It would cost local government roughly half a million dollars to provide free Wi-Fi through the village to resort guests — an investment that likely is not worth it, staff told council at this week's Committee of the Whole meeting.

While there are a lot of radio waves throughout the village — staff tracked 68 signals at Mountain Square, 12 of which were open signals — there is still no ubiquitous, free, seamless experience.

And that's what Whistler's visitors are coming to expect.

"Why Wi-Fi? Well, our customers expect it," said Bob MacPherson, general manager of corporate and community service.

Not only do they want free Wi-Fi, he added, they want to be able to stream video and they want to be able to do that when the resort is at its busiest. And that requires enough bandwidth to cope with the busiest times, even if it isn't used most of the time.

While the lack of free Wi-Fi likely isn't a decision breaker in deciding whether or not to come to Whistler, research from Tourism Whistler shows it impacts visitor satisfaction levels.

Whistler may also be losing out when it comes to travellers bragging about their holidays through social media.

"That's where the value to the resort would significantly come back," said MacPherson.

Staff was tasked with investigating the possibility of free village Wi-Fi in the Council Action Plan.

While the cost is bad news, the good news is that the private sector is on the case, a step and a half in front of the municipality.

MacPherson said it would be worthwhile to continue to work with the business community through the Chamber of Commerce and with Tourism Whistler and the major telecommunications companies to see if a solution can be found.

Bike bait program back for summer

Whistler loves its high-end bikes, even more than its fancy cars, making it a prime target for opportunistic thieves. But so far in 2012 bike thefts are down over last year, a trend local RCMP want to keep on track.

"This municipality has the distinction of having a higher dollar value in bicycles stolen every year than in vehicles," Staff Sergeant Steve LeClair told council at its Tuesday meeting.

"We are working hard to ensure we don't have a repeat of last year. Last year and the year before we did have a lot of bicycles stolen."

From January 1 to June 30 last year 38 bikes were stolen in Whistler. This year for the same time period 17 were stolen.

To help combat this the bike bait program is back again this summer. It was successful last year after police nabbed a suspect.

"It is a big concern this year reducing the theft of bicycles," said LeClair.

In addition to the bike statistics, LeClair also painted an overall picture of crime stats from the first half of 2012 compared to 2011 for council.

The number of prisoners held at the detachment is down from 283 to 242, a trend perhaps of officers encouraging friends or family to look after intoxicated revellers as opposed to the police holding them in cells.

Break and entries of businesses are up slightly, eight to nine, but more disturbing, said LeClair, is the increase in residential break and entries.

"I have been observing that trend and that is in relation to a lot of thefts in the Northland Boulevard and the Blackcomb Way, the Benchlands, where somebody has been breaking into homes via open patio doors and stealing iPods and cell phones— things that are easily convertible to cash."

Overall the total police calls for service were down from 3,120 to 3,037.

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