Before the widespread use of mobile data, WiFi was quickly becoming the only practical means for consumers to access the web and email away from the home/office. After spending a healthy amount of time in Whistler snowboarding, and finding it difficult to pretend I was working, I became interested in the idea of Community WiFi. Whistler-Blackcomb’s planned community is a densely packed (~9 KM²) civic centre with tens of thousands of hotel rooms and many cafes, restaurants, and bars.
I approached Whistler Cable Television Ltd., a family-run local cable company, to leverage their network as the backbone for a WiFi network spanning the entire Whistler Village and beyond. They also signed on to help fund and co-market the network, provided that we also develop a solution for in-room internet for the many hotels in the area.
The network leveraged 10 sites and 32 antennae powered by 16 WiFi radios. I installed many of these myself. Rather than performing AAA at the radio, which requires costly radio devices and increases maintenance and operational impact, access was consolidated at a single point in the network. All traffic was backhauled on an isolated frequency on Whistler Cable’s HFC network. This is something that could only be done in close partnership with the network provider.
Users could purchase time by-the-day online, or purchase prepaid cards via local cafes all around the Whistler village. The service also became a viable alternative to residential broadband for seasonal residents.