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Federal Industry Minister Orders Rogers to Open TTC Subway Network to All Carriers

The federal industry minister has ordered Rogers Communications Inc. to provide access by other mobile carriers to its wireless network in Toronto’s subway system within 22 days.

The Oct. 3 deadline is a key part of new spectrum license conditions aimed at bringing cellphone and data services to the entire subway network by the end of 2026, Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne announced at a press conference in Toronto on Sept. 11.

The new spectrum licence conditions are effective immediately and mandate Rogers give Telus, Bell, and other carriers access to its wireless service in core parts of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) subway by deadline.

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“It is simply unacceptable that so many subway riders still do not have access to wireless services,” Mr. Champagne said at the press conference. “I’m here today to tell you that those days are over. Time is up.”

The new conditions require all mobile carriers currently operating in Toronto to provide same-quality services to all TTC subway riders by the October deadline and start work quickly to expand the current infrastructure so subway users can have full voice, text, and data services within specified timeframes. Providers must also offer these same services in all future stations and tunnels as they develop within the TTC subway network.

Wireless connectivity on the subway is a critical safety matter, not just a convenience, Mr. Champagne said in the Sept. 11 announcement.

“That’s why today we’re taking immediate action on behalf of hundreds of thousands of frustrated passengers to require that by October 3, all subway riders have access to cellular services regardless of their mobile carrier,” Mr. Champagne said.

According to the federal government, while the Oct. 3 deadline covers only the existing network, service must be provided to all stations within six months of signing commercial agreements between carriers. Mr. Champagne requires agreements to be signed within 100 days.

“Make no mistake. Should mobile carriers fail to meet these conditions, I will not shy away from taking further action as appropriate,” Mr. Champagne said.

Several MPs from the Toronto area attended the announcement alongside Olivia Chow, mayor of Toronto.

“Everyone should be able to have cell phone service on the subway, regardless of their carrier,” Ms. Chow said.

Presently, only Freedom Mobile and Rogers offer service in the subway. However, all riders can make emergency 911 calls.

Noncompliance with the conditions may result in the minister suspending or revoking spectrum licenses or imposing financial penalties.

Rogers said it agrees with the government’s new approach, adding that it is working to quickly bring 5G services to subway users as soon as possible.

“We’ll continue to work around the clock to upgrade and expand the network so all riders can connect anywhere on the subway,” a Rogers spokesperson told iPhone in Canada in a statement.

“Bell and Telus have been dragging their heels and the federal government is now forcing them to work with us in earnest to make connectivity possible for all riders.”

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

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