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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.

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