Dec 08, 2015

The TTC may have expanded its free Wi-Fi offering this month to another four stations. But the number of riders who can access it has been temporarily confined to those with Twitter accounts.

The social media company has a sponsorship agreement with BAI Canada, the TTC’s internet provider, for the month of December making internet access on the subway conditional on logging on to Twitter.

Riders who don’t have an account and want to text on the TTC would have to open one before heading underground. Those who already have one will automatically connect to the TConnect service on the TTC and remain connected for 12 hours on Wi-Fi accessible stations.

The transit sponsorship agreement is a first for Twitter, said spokesman Cameron Gordon.

“Anything in terms of privacy from our side is no different than if you were signing up for a Twitter account above ground,” said Gordon, adding that it takes about 45 seconds to create a Twitter account.

Twitter’s terms and conditions apply while you’re using it.

Once you’re on the system BAI, which has a 20-year, $25 million contract to provide internet on the TTC, has no access to your Twitter information, said BAI Canada chief operating officer Ken Ranger.

The TTC doesn’t pay for internet on the system. It is a sponsored service for which BAI is paying $25 million over 20 years for the rights, said transit spokesman Brad Ross.
He compared the Twitter agreement to accessing the internet at a coffee shop.

“Basically all it’s doing is opening up the pipeline for you to go on the internet when you’re in the stations. We don’t know who you are once you’ve logged in. It says, ‘Ok you have a Twitter account,’ and it opens up the pipeline,” he said.

The TTC launched Wi-Fi at Bloor Station about two years ago. Since then it has rolled out south of Bloor on the Yonge-University-Spadina line and from Christie to Castle Frank on the Bloor-Danforth subway.

The entire system will be Wi-Fi accessible by 2017.

Most riders can text but cellphone service is limited to users on WIND Mobile.

There are more than 12 million Canadian Twitter accounts and the Toronto area tends to have a higher per capita use of the site than other cities, said Gordon.