The Spots Where Toronto Most Needs Wi-Fi
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The Spots Where Toronto Most Needs Wi-Fi

Because free internet keeps us going.

Yesterday, a Toronto Redditor with a keen eye snapped a shot of a router being installed at Donlands Station on the city’s east end. The installation is part of the TTC’s efforts to connect riders while underground, a project that launched last April.

Still, Toronto remains a city vastly unconnected, and public Wi-Fi here is scarce by comparison to other major cities worldwide.

How can the city catch up? Here are a few spots where Toronto most needs Wi-Fi connectivity.

Parks

High Park. Photo by Ryan Anderson from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

High Park. Photo by Ryan Anderson from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Toronto’s parks are hotspots for public gatherings—whether it’s to see the cherry blossoms at High Park, or to enjoy a picnic at Trinity-Bellwoods—but you’ll be hard pressed to find a public Wi-Fi hotspot at any of them across the city.

It’s a sad reality that few other major cities face. In San Francisco, for instance, Google helped foot the bill to bring public Wi-Fi to rec centres, parks, and playgrounds throughout the city. And free Wi-Fi in several parks across New York City has long been commonplace.

But park-goers in Toronto may not be internet-free for long. In 2015, Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) rallied to have Wi-Fi brought to municipal parks. The City’s economic development division is now working on a report on how to make that happen, expected later this year. There’s no word on how long such a project would take to implement.

Meanwhile, in 2014, Parks Canada requested that it offer Wi-Fi in up to 150 parks across the country within a three-year window. The organization took cues from Manitoba, where hotspots have been available since 2013.

Public transportation

Photo by Calvin from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Photo by Calvin from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

The TTC made strides toward better connectivity with the launch of its free Wi-Fi pilot project in some of the most-used stations. But there are still shortcomings—mainly that riders lose their connections when they travel from station to station.

Wi-Fi within subway cars could solve this. That’s the plan in New York City, where a $27-billion plan is in place to bring in a fleet of 1,025 new subway cars that are digitized and include built-in Wi-Fi.

That plan, of course, is no easy task.

Most other cities have vied instead for complete connectivity across its stations, including Tokyo (available in 210 stations), Hong Kong (92 stations) and London (250 stations).

If Toronto wants to catch up, the TTC will have to step up its game and finishing implementing Wi-Fi at the remainder of its 69 stations. (As it stands, only 33 currently have Wi-Fi.)

On the streets

Step into a coffee shop or head inside a mall, and you’re bound to find a hotspot. But on the streets, you’re stuck using your (really expensive) data plan.

One solution? In New York, defunct phone booths have been transformed into Wi-Fi hotspots. Last month, 50 units were installed; the goal is to eventually install 7,500. Each booth also displays advertising. With a number of decrepit booths in Toronto, perhaps a similar initiative could work wonders north of the border.

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