Ipsos Reid made the headlines last month when it reported that for the first time ever, Canadians are spending more time online than in front of the boob tube. Consequently, sitting in a coffee shop with a Macbook on display is no longer the preserve of wanna be writers or stressed out students, but has become an acceptable pastime for anyone with a taste for celebrity gossip or sassy cats with bad diction. I expect that sooner or later, access to wireless within city limits will become as ubiquitous and necessary as access to electricity or water. Until that date, anyone wanting to surf, tweet, google, troll or blog outside of the confines of their own room must find a second home at one of the many free WiFi hotspots across the city.
I know of at least four organizations trying to compile lists of free WiFi hotspots across the city: the Ottawa Canada Linex Users Group (pretty good list but may be out of date), Ottawa/Gatineau WiFi (a pretty short list but they also have a google map going), The Urban Spoon (longer list that also has a map) and WiFiHotspotList.com (short and focused on the Quebec side). Based on these lists, plus a little original research of our own, Apartment613 has come up with our list of WiFi hotspots in Centretown and the adjoining neighbourhoods.
As usual, please comment to let us know if we made a mistake or missed a particularly good spot! We’ll try to pass along what we learn to the great organizations trying to compile this information.
If you need a quiet, studious atmosphere, all 33 branches of the public library have free access… and you don’t even need a library card.
A trick I picked up while traveling was to try hotel lobbies for free access to the net for short term or emergency situations. Most of the time they won’t ask questions, although asking for the code can be a bit awkward if they lock their systems. Les Suites Hotel, the Chateau Laurier and the Radisson all have hook-ups.
It may be cliche (and frankly quite obvious), but coffee shops are still one of the best place to get access to the world wide web: it’s free, you can stay for hours leisurely sipping your latte and, when you can tear your eyes away from the screen, its a great place to people watch. Bridgehead, Starbucks, Timothy’s and Second Cup locations across the city all have access.
You won’t suffer from lack of choice for hooked-up coffee shops in this neighborhood: my choice is the Roast and Brew at the corner of Bank and Fifth, which often still has seats even if the Bridgehead and Starbucks is at full capacity (plus some good lookin’ eats).
If you feel the need to sip on something a bit stronger, the Clocktower Brew Pub (575 Bank) has internet access, although their atmosphere may be less conducive to any task that requires quiet reflection. According to the Urban Spoon The Arrow and Loon has access as well… I’m not sure if their WiFi reaches out to their patio off of Bank St., but if so the combo of beer and relative quiet would work well for interneting.
Olga’s Deli and Catering is allegedly connected, although only for morning and early afternoon browsing. They close early (and the coffee isn’t the best).
The Market and Parliament Hill
See and be seen with your brand new iPad at chichi spots in the Market: Social and Restaurant 18 both allow mixing highballs and high speed, as do pubs like Patty Boland’s and the Earle of Sussex (not sure about the Black Thorn, which has the same owners). For coffee shops, choose Xpresso cafe, which is always chalk-full of students and their Macbooks, or the cozier Tea Party.
If you’re wandering near the hill and have a sudden need to stream CPAC, Parliament Pub and Darcy McGee’s both have WiFi. I’ve heard that the Hill itself is wired, but I suspect that you need to be initiated in the ways of the political classes in order to plug in. We plebeians can possibly get access at the NCC InfoCenter (90 Wellington) which is open most days.
Elgin and Bank Streets
The core restaurant district of Centretown is buzzing with invisible waves. You could probably find a relatively quite spot to check you email at the cavernous Lieutenant’s Pump even with a Sens game in full swing, but if not try Big Daddy’s Crab Shack & Oyster Bar down the street. The Elgin Street Diner is probably one of the few places in town where you can indulge your 4am craving for both poutine and Lost spoilers, although forget trying to hog a seat during weekend brunch hours or after 2am bar closing (apparently their WiFi no longer works). The patio of the Elgin Second Cup (next to St. Louis Bar) deserves a special mention, especially given the small taste of patio season that we just enjoyed.
Moving West to Bank Street, the Atomic Rooster theoretically has WiFi, although in practice it tends to be a bit spotty. On this street you may have to resort to a Bridgehead or – ack! – an internet cafe.
Chinatown, Hintonburg and Westboro
Umi Cafe will hook you up with both WiFi and fair trade coffee, although my big baby of a boyfriend still refuses to go because he thinks the chairs look uncomfortable. Further down on Wellington, the Elmdale Tavern offers you the chance to engage in social networking both online and off. The Westboro branch of The Works offers internet access, although I’m not sure if the other locations of the popular chain do as well.
Update: Other Wifi locals
Thanks to some tips from our readers, I got a couple more to add.
The Canadian Museum of Civilization (100 rue Laurier Street, Gatineau) apparently has free access… you can educate yourself in real time and online at the same time.