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Attention Subway Customers: Wi-Fi Has Arrived

The TTC officially launches its free Wi-Fi service at Bloor-Yonge and St. George stations.

The good news: free Wi-Fi service is now available on subway platforms. The bad news: it’s currently limited to two key stations, and you still can’t use your regular mobile phone service.

After a two-week soft launch that began on November 25, the TTC officially introduced TConnect at a press conference this morning. “In a time when we talk a lot about transit infrastructure, we don’t actually see a lot get built,” observed TTC Chair Karen Stintz. “Today is a time we can celebrate new infrastructure being built in our TTC that’s going to help commuters every day communicate with home, communicate with work, and communicate with each other.”

The infrastructure for TConnect was provided by BAI Canada, which signed a 20-year contract with the TTC in December 2012. The service is currently available only at Bloor-Yonge and St. George stations, but Stintz promised that the downtown loop south of the Bloor-Danforth line will be connected by the start of the Pan-Am Games in 2015. Though cellular capability has been installed, a lack of agreements with the major mobile carriers means you won’t be gabbing on the phone while waiting for the next train.

While we encountered annoying videos upon logging onto the service during the soft launch, all we noticed today was a welcome screen plastered with sponsor logos. Service was smooth on our test phone while walking around all four station platforms, but it vaporizes the moment your train exits the premises.

For much of the press conference, it was hard to tell if the purpose was to celebrate the launch of Wi-Fi, or push Stride Gum and Huffington Post Canada. Mondelēz Canada has signed on to provide “messaging” for Stride, Oreo cookies, and its other popular processed products. HuffPo will offer news and other original content which, as AOL Canada general manager Joe Strolz suggested, “fuels social media interactions.”

Whether commuters will utilize TConnect’s content or rush past it to their usual information sources is yet to be seen.

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/mattdemers Matt Demers

    It’s kind of unsurprising that any “free” service was going to come with a gate of ads in order to get to what we really want: Internet. It’s the same thing in airports, where they require you to click through to sponsor messages before you can tell people you landed safely.

    Sadly it still feels like ineffective advertising when they need to trick/bribe us in order to view it, though.

    • http://gniw.ca/ Ambrose Li

      At least in those airports the wifi is free. I’ve actually been to an airport where there was only paid wifi and no free wifi.

      But a login screen on the TTC is crazy: How much time do we have inside one station? Or is this actually a tacit acknowledgement that its trains never arrive on time?

  • mariapd

    You can still make phone calls or send text messages through VOIP, like Rogers One Number or Google hangouts.

    • Josh Vamos

      These services have to land on a similar application running the same protocol and don’t make their way to the plain telephone system. That’s not exactly getting your ROI. Personally I feel like they should get rid of the ad filled login page and limit traffic to email services, messaging platforms and http traffic. With no time to look at my phone before transferring, it would be nice to have new emails in my inbox and to have sent the ones waiting in my outbox while I head south. Keeping everyone’s morning a little more salubrious and stress free. Plus I don’t want to be caught walking behind someone heading to their next train while trying to load a browser, click next, then open the next app and get it all done before approaching the yellow line.

  • Steve Munro

    The video that was part of the login process during the soft launch was removed because “legacy” Blackberries (only 18 months old) did not handle the transition to “logged on” status properly. The version with the static ad does.

  • FundamentalAttributionError

    Comparing Paris and France to Toronto and Canada is like comparing apples and asparagus. The French, for better or worse, have a very different attitude towards public services and public space.

  • wklis

    Hopefully, it’ll be better Wi-Fi than what they have at some fast food joints. When I go to the fast food joint, I have to turn OFF my Wi-Fi on my smartphone because its faster to bypass them.

  • Sircrapsalot

    Who cares about WiFi or cell phone use on the TTC, when there are bigger issues. A huge waste of effort, time and money. Get on with the real business of the TTC. BEING ON TIME and AFFORDABLE!

  • https://paul.kishimoto.name/ Paul Kishimoto

    “a lack of agreements with the major mobile carriers”
    ^ in this case it’s Canada’s telecom situation, rather than Toronto’s transit situation. If you can get away with charging your customers exorbitant rates for mediocre service, why rush to take on the additional hassle of supporting subway tunnel service? Better to hold out and wait for governments to sweeten the deal (i.e. your bottom line) at the public’s expense.

    The federal Conservatives apparently believe the response to behaviour like this is to *pay* the same carriers (to carry ads): http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/cellphone-industry-targeted-in-ottawa-s-9m-ad-campaign-1.2447812