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Jan 19th, 2024

NEWS RELEASE: CIRA and National Capital FreeNet team up to bring free and secure internet to low-income communities in Ottawa

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Ottawa, ON – January 18, 2024 – As more Canadians struggle with the rising costs of internet access and other essentials, CIRA joins forces with National Capital FreeNet, an Ottawa-based not-for-profit internet provider, to help tackle affordable urban connectivity.  

As part of its Net Good initiative, CIRA is proud to announce a $250,000 two-year investment to support National Capital FreeNet’s Community WiFi Network pilot project helping those living in low-income communities in Ottawa bridge the digital divide by offering free WiFi and digital skills support.  

This five-year initiative will focus on neighbourhoods within Vanier, Overbrook and Sandy Hill that experience some of the highest levels of social and economic inequities in the city. Residents in these neighbourhoods are more likely to struggle to afford the high costs of internet connectivity and could benefit from hands-on support to improve their digital know-how. 

Delivered in partnership with Ottawa Community Housing and Hiboo Networks, the Community WiFi Network pilot project will launch in the Fall of 2024 in common spaces at 251 and 255 Donald Street, two Ottawa Community Housing buildings based in Vanier. The network will deliver free, secure, fast and high-quality WiFi in indoor and outdoor community spaces where residents live, socialize and access social services.  

In addition to supporting the initiative financially, CIRA will also deploy its DNS Firewall and Internet Performance Test services as well as support network security for the project. Ottawa Community Housing—the largest social, community and affordable housing provider in the city—will be providing access to their facilities for implementation, supporting the technical and community delivery. Finally, Hiboo Networks, Ottawa-Gatineau’s first municipally owned fibre optic-based telecom provider, will provide 18 months of free 1Gbps fibre backhaul connectivity. 

The Community Wifi Network pilot provides a unique opportunity to share lessons learned with similar projects nationwide. This new funding initiative complements CIRA’s annual Net Good Grants program which provides millions of dollars in funding to community-led projects that address digital challenges in rural, remote and Indigenous communities across Canada. The next CIRA grants call will open on March 1, 2024 for organizations across the country that are delivering community internet access, improving online safety and engaging in internet policy work. 


“This is an amazing opportunity to pilot a truly community-led WiFi network in Ottawa. This project will make it easier for residents, especially those most affected by the high prices of home internet and cellphone data, to get online for free while out in their neighbourhoods and accessing community services. We believe this will help individuals, while also building the community’s digital resilience.”

Shelley Robinson, Executive Director, National Capital FreeNet

“CIRA has been a champion of helping bridge the digital divide for years through our Net Good Grants program which has made a real impact in rural, Northern and Indigenous communities. However, even urban communities suffer from a lack of connectivity due to the high cost of internet access. We are proud to partner with National Capital FreeNet to help close this gap by delivering community WiFi to low-income neighbourhoods in Ottawa. This growing network will ensure that more families in the city have the internet access they need to work, learn, and interact with their communities and the world.”

Byron Holland, President and CEO, CIRA

“OCH is thrilled to partner with National Capital FreeNet, CIRA and Hiboo Networks to bring free Wi-Fi to the common areas of two Ottawa Community Housing buildings in Vanier. At a time when the cost of living has gone up for our tenants, this collaborative initiative will offer access to the opportunities, services and connectivity that the internet provides.”

Stéphane Giguère, Chief Executive Officer, Ottawa Community Housing

“Hiboo Networks is pleased to work with National Capital Freenet and CIRA on the Community WiFi project that democratizes Internet access for all and enables the socio-economic benefits that go along with it.”

Christopher Emery, General Manager, Hiboo Networks

“Empowering progress through connectivity, I applaud the National Capital FreeNet’s commitment to bridging the digital divide in Overbrook and Vanier South with the launch of its Free Community Wi-Fi pilot,” said Rawlson King, Ottawa City Councillor for Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward. “By working with members of our community, along with strong partners, this initiative will not only provide access to the Internet but also foster a platform for collaboration, innovation, and community engagement. By fostering a connected community, we can collectively aim to uplift lives, amplify voices, and create a more equitable future for all.”

Rawlson King, Ottawa City Councillor for Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward

Additional information

Learn more about the Community WiFi Network pilot project
For more information about CIRA’s commitment to building a trusted internet for Canadians, visit And to see how CIRA Grants are empowering communities, head to:

About CIRA 

CIRA is the national not-for-profit best known for managing the .CA domain on behalf of all Canadians. As a leader in Canada’s internet ecosystem, CIRA offers a wide range of products, programs and services designed to make the internet a secure and accessible space for all. CIRA represents Canada on both national and international stages to support its goal of building a trusted internet for Canadians by helping shape the future of the internet. 

 About Net Good by CIRA and CIRA Grants 

Net Good by CIRA supports communities, projects and policies that make the internet better for all Canadians. CIRA proudly funds Net Good by CIRA from the revenue CIRA generates through .CA domains and cybersecurity services. CIRA Grants is one of CIRA’s most valuable contributions to Net Good, with nearly $12 million invested in hundreds of community-led internets across Canada that address infrastructure, online safety and policy engagement needs. 

About National Capital FreeNet

National Capital FreeNet (NCF) is Ottawa’s local not-for-profit alternative to commercial internet providers. As part of its commitment to advancing digital equity, NCF believes that everyone has a right to affordable, high-quality internet that they can understand how to use, while feeling safe online. NCF has been connecting people to the internet for more than 30 years and continues to find ways to offer affordable internet access while supporting digital skills and safety.

About Ottawa Community Housing

Ottawa Community Housing offers approximately 15,000 homes to about 32,000 tenants, including seniors, families, individuals, and people with disabilities. These homes are located in various communities throughout the City of Ottawa and house a diverse population with different languages, cultures, and ethnicities. OCH is Ottawa’s primary community housing provider, managing two-thirds of the city’s housing portfolio and ranking as the second largest in Ontario. In 2023, OCH earned recognition for the sixth consecutive year as one of the National Capital Region’s Top Employers.

About Hiboo Networks

Hiboo Networks is Ottawa-Gatineau’s first and only intelligent network service provider delivering high-quality, high-capacity connectivity solutions to businesses and organizations acting as a catalyst for the region’s global leadership in the digital economy of the future. Its dedicated ethernet and internet solutions will enable Smart City initiatives and other leading-edge innovations for the region. Hiboo Networks is owned by Hydro Ottawa Holding Inc.