WiFi Providers in the Ottawa Area

Free Hotspots

More and more businesses (particularly bookstores, cafés/coffee shops, bars, restaurants, hotels/motels, libraries, campgrounds, airports, train/bus stations and others in the hospitality and retail industries) are offering free (or at least free-with-purchase) wireless internet access hotspots for their patrons to use with their laptop computers, Personal Digital Assistants, wifi-enabled cellphones and other high-tech gadgets. Created out of the frustration of finding much outdated and/or conflicting information on the web, this web page will be a clearinghouse for relevant data on the subject in and around Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Because the scene is constantly changing (and mostly for the better), be sure to come back often and check the links here for the most up-to-date info, and confirm with a particular venue if you're planning to travel there and use wifi. Don't forget to charge your batteries too, as AC outlets are often at a premium.

Note that this page isn't about "stealing" free wifi from your neighbours. For more thoughts on that subject, please see my Stumbling page.

While these access points are often promoted as being free, they generally require checking in with the establishment's staff to obtain a temporary login password or other basic security measures in order to prevent unwanted free access by nearby non-patrons. Although a basic connection can often be established without logging in or providing a WEP/WPA encryption key, patrons will typically be unable to navigate beyond the company's login page before registration. There might also be limitations on connect time, speed, which internet services/protocols/ports can be accessed, and so on. The courtesy of a small purchase will likely be required as well. Keep in mind that security configurations may vary from place to place, so be careful when entering in such personal information as passwords, credit card numbers, etc. Use any security measures available for your connection (VPN, SSL, etc.), use a software firewall, and keep your anti-virus/anti-spyware utilities updated. Conversely, remember that this access is not truly anonymous, so any questionable internet activities may also be traceable back to you if you've provided any registration information when signing up.

Ottawa-Gatineau WiFi (ogWiFi)

As stated on their home page, ogWiFi is a non-profit Community Wireless Network (CWN) with members on both sides of the Ottawa River dedicated to bringing no-fee wireless Internet access to the region. Their wiki has a wealth of information on the subject (including a Google map of over a dozen local hotspots), also check out their blog and Facebook group for the latest news. Sign up for your free account here. Current members include:

Starbucks Coffee Shops

The ubiquitous Starbucks chain of coffee shops recently announced that it will be offering free wireless internet access at many of its locations in Canada. Bell Sympatico clients will get unlimited time, while the rest of us mere mortals will be limited to two hours per day. All that's required is free registration of your Starbucks client card (available at any location, $5 minimum balance required) that you'll use to log in. A map of about 24 participating Ottawa outlets may be found here. I've personally verified this system at several local Starbucks and it works very well, with no purchase or barista interaction required. Simply connect to the strongest Bell Hotspot you find, fire up your web browser, and log into to the redirected start page with your Starbucks card number and PIN. You'll get a secondary popup window showing how much of your free 2 hours is remaining, and there's a 15-minute idle timeout, after which you'll need to reconnect if you've been away too long. Many Chapters bookstores in the Ottawa area also have Starbucks outlets with free wifi.

The Ottawa Public Library

The Ottawa Public Library offers free wireless internet access at most of its larger locations. Look for a strong network with a name beginning with "opl". You'll need a current library card to connect, using the 14-digit barcode number on the front of the card, along with your 4-digit PIN (by default it's the last 4 digits of the phone number you supplied on the card application). You may also need to install an offered security certificate, as well as allowing popups and cookies. There's no current limit on connection time (within library operating hours), but a 10-minute idle timeout applies. Content on children's accounts may be filtered. If you don't have a laptop, most locations also have free internet access terminals.

Additional Ottawa Businesses Reported to Offer Free WiFi

Pay-per-use Hotspots



Other Hotspot Directories

More Internet Resources

WiFi Hotspot Solution and Roaming Plan Providers

Always-on Wireless Internet Solutions (expensive)

Software Utilities to Help You Find and Connect to Hotspots

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