Toronto jumps on the muni Wi-Fi train

by Mathew on March 6, 2006 · 5 comments

According to a report in the Toronto Star by my friend Tyler Hamilton, it sounds like Toronto could soon join the ranks of North American boroughs with wireless access that covers most (if not all) of the city. The local utility, Toronto Hydro, put out a press release saying it’s going to announce something tomorrow, and Tyler’s story says the announcement is going to be a rollout of city-wide wireless.

This would put the Big Smoke in the same league as Philadelphia, which gave Earthlink a contract to provide wireless that covers the city, and several California cities such as San Francisco, where Google and Earthlink have joined forces to provide municipal Wi-Fi coverage. Such efforts have come despite resistance from telecom players such as Verizon, which successfully got legislation passed in an attempt to block the Philly plan. New Orleans and Chicago are working on similar proposals.

The big question, of course, is what Toronto’s Wi-Fi will cost. Ever since coffee shops started adding wireless access and providers such as Spotnik and Fatport tried to turn it into a business, people have been wondering how to make money from Wi-Fi. If you’re a retailer, wireless is close to becoming a condiment – meaning something you have to have, like cream and sugar or public washrooms.

Will Toronto Hydro charge a monthly fee that can be added to your power bill? Will you be able to use PayPal, or tack it onto other city charges such as water or parking? And will it be $10 a month for all you can eat, or $40 a month for limited bandwidth? Those questions and more will hopefully be answered tomorrow.


More details about the plan here – it involves covering a big chunk of the downtown core, with 54mbps by the sounds of it, but no prices were given. Mark Evans has a great quote from Toronto Hydro on his blog.

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  • vinnie mirchandani

    you wonder why cities are taking the leap, but many airports are not. It is irrittating to pay T-Mobile 29 a month and then travel to various airports which do not support roaming on T-Mobile or they charge a premium of another $ 7 to 10 for the day when i only have 30 minutes at the airport. Florida, where I live, is one of the more progressive states – Tampa, orlando, Ft Luaderdale airports are free…but in tech savvy CA or MA many airports not true…

    I would gladly pay $ 1 an hour …at an airport or downtown…

  • Mathew

    I agree, Vinnie. I think too many providers are still trying to gouge people as much as they can instead of seeing it as a longer-term opportunity — or even just as a public service, to build customer loyalty.


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