Regina: The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released a new policy backgrounder on the Saskatchewan! Connected network. This network a provincial government program that advertises free wireless internet in the downtowns and tertiary campuses of Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, Regina, and Saskatoon.
Figure 1 The familiar logo that appears all over major Saskatchewan downtowns
The paper argues that the program does not and cannot work. It illustrates the basic economic problem with offering a service that is finite in supply for zero price: consumers will always demand more of it than there is available, leaving everyone frustrated with poor service.
Widespread anecdotal reports say that the service is patchy, slow, and unreliable. Because there is no publicly available information on the performance of the service (i.e. how many people use it or what download speeds they get), these anecdotes are the only existing information. However, public institutions such as universities and libraries, as well as many private businesses in the zones ignore the service by offering their own wireless Internet.
The study’s author, David Seymour, says the program is a poor use of government funds and a source of frustration for would-be users. “Anyone who’s seen the Saskatchewan! Connected stickers advertising free internet at a venue and tried to use it will likely be familiar with the frustration of such poor service. It would almost be better if the promise was never held out; at the moment it seems as if it’s a bad practical joke.”
The backgrounder concludes that the Information Technology Office, which is responsible for the service, should:
- Start publishing performance data to make the program transparent;
- Start charging for access so that the service is not hopelessly over-subscribed, as almost all public wireless services around the world do;
- Privatise the service, as public management has been a disaster and it is not clear why providing Wi-Fi should be within the role of government.
Download a copy of Saskatchewan! Connected? HERE
For more information and to arrange an interview with the study's author, media (only) should contact:
+1 (306) 581-1007