Ile Sans Fil

An interesting group I’ve come across in my work over the summer, Île Sans Fil is a Montreal group trying to encourage free wireless internet access across the island of montreal, primarily through providing infrastructure support for businesses and organizations who wish to join the network by providing free wireless internet.

From what I can glean, they seem to be bilingual, free (as in speech) software advocates, are almost entirely volunteer run, and in my case with the Atwater Library, very willing to go the extra mile to get things working. They have two projects: setting up conventional wireless hotspots across the island of Montreal, and to get a free rooftop to rooftop network configured, which will be run by and for the community at large.

It does raise some questions, which they may or may not have addressed (I couldn’t find answers on their website to these concerns), about who is liable for malicious usage of the service. If all it takes to get an account is a valid e-mail address, it seems like the door is wide open for all sorts of not very nice things to occur.

In addition, it also invokes a stark contrast between the haves and have nots: at my work, those with laptops can use the internet for free, while those who don’t have them have to pay a small fee, however for most of the people who use the service, this fee is by no means trivial, whereas on the other hand, I suspect most of the laptop toting visitors could easily afford it.

Still, in general seems like a worthwhile endeavour, I shall report more as I learn it.

One Response to “Ile Sans Fil”

  1. mtl3p says:


    Here’s some answers:

    1) We actually aren’t doing anything with rooftop-to-rooftop mesh networks. We spend some time on it earlier (our first year), but we’ve been pulled away to our hotspot and locative media projects. Instead of mesh I would say our secondary goal is to use our technology to help create community.

    2) “who is liable for malicious usage of the service?” Tough one. We take steps to protect our partners (they are safer with us than with a simply open hotspot which is the alternative. Videotron and Starbucks as well as many other’s operate this way. At least in our system the owner has the ability to show that he is not soley responsable for anything illegal which may have happened.

    And I think a lot of the volunteers also value anonymity and it’s place in society.

    3) “stark contrast between the haves and have nots” You are perfectly right. Luckily, there are groups like Communautique in Montreal which are fighting the good fight against the digital divide and have been for 10 years. We’ve been hoping to implicate ourselves more in this area, but it is hard to do on a volunteer basis since projects like this (getting marginalized pop online) need training and follow up. Hopefully we’ll have some good news to report on it this fall.

    Thanks for the writeup! We just had a mapping presentation at our last meeting. This fall we will definitely be launching into the collaborative mapping / counter mapping / community mapping world. maybe we’ll run into people from your dep. at that point.