Toronto Convention Centre charges attendees $150/day to use WiFi

Are you a busy professional attending an event at the Toronto International Centre? Be prepared to travel in time to an idyllic era when physically leaving the office made you unreachable by your colleagues and peers. Or, if you want to live in the modern era, be prepared to pay the whopping $99/day for "ultra-lite wireless" service at the TIC (if you want to actually use the network in any meaningful way, you'll have to sign up for "extreme wireless" at $150/day).

Event-planners, beware -- your attendees will get gouged, reamed, and screwed if you come to TIC.

Most Expensive Wi-Fi Ever? (Thanks, Parker!)


  1. That’s going on in a lot of places. In a lot of airports you can buy WiFi from some or another provider for 20$/hour or shitty deals like that. High profile conventions usually charge extra-double-quadruple fees for their WiFi (and no matter what plan, it is usually shitty, unreliable and nigh impossible to actually use for anything).

    I just have this to say: Ya’all people, who get shitty deals for the most basic of networking services when finding yourself in one spot far from home, look into self organizing wireless mesh networks.

    1. “look into self organizing wireless mesh networks” – yes, because that’s exactly what a 62 year old banking executive attending SIBOS is capable of doing. You sound like a Linux nerd.

      1. Well, seeing how most Linux nerds are folks very much interested in protecting those in their circle of influence from getting screwed, and paying more for inferior products, I think you’re probably right.

        That being said, as a self-professed linux nerd, I would have no idea how to go about self organizing a wireless mesh network.

    2. look into self organizing wireless mesh networks

      I thought the approved method of dealing with this was IP over DNS? Not that I’ve ever tried…

    3. “I just have this to say: Ya’all people, who get shitty deals for the most basic of networking services when finding yourself in one spot far from home, look into self organizing wireless mesh networks.”

      Yeah, but you may not necessarily be able to access them from within any convention center.

  2. At one of the conferences my publishing firm traveled to to promote our wares charged a “special computer fee” of $250 to plug a laptop in to the outlet provided. Charging our cell phones on the same outlet was free.  

  3. It’s the same scam in which WiFi is free at cheap hotels like Days Inn, but $30-$50/day at expensive hotels like Hiltons and Hyatts. Generally people staying at expensive hotels or attending conferences aren’t doing so on their own dime — they just charge everything to their work, so nobody really feels the need to complain.

    1. Your pushcart idea won’t work. Convention centers are run by the unions and the city government. If you try to plug in your own computer at Chicago’s McCormick Place you could get all your power cut off, and I’ve seen Teamsters intimidating kindergarten teachers trying to dismantle their own exhibits at educational conferences. You pushcart would get dumped into the lake, and you right behind it.

  4. How much does it cost to use one of those cellular modems? I’m guessing a month’s service with a generous data cap wouldn’t be $150 … although I don’t know whether the service on them is any good.

    1. I can tether my laptop to my cell and use it as a modem, with useable DSL-speed. Unlimited data plan from Sprint costs me $15 a month. A bit slow for full-time use, but quite acceptable during trips.

  5. There is a certain convention center in Germany where I see this every year – same price (about $100 USD per day). The solution on our end was to sign up for a few months with Boingo Wireless – they had a ‘roaming’ agreement on the convention center’s wifi and we could just roam on our Boingo account while at the extortion site.

    In the US we all just Verizon mifi units.

  6. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a sign that read:  “FREE WI-FI, $150/day.”  (Something I’ve actually seen at significantly reduced rates, yet still an odd interpretation of the word “free.”)

    1. That’s because you’re parsing it wrong. “Free” is clearly a *verb* in that case, and $150/day is the charge to free the wi-fi so you can use it.

  7. Hey, is there a TracFone-like 3G or 4G network that you can pay-by-the minute, rather than have to sign over your firstborn to get set up with Verizon or AT&T?

  8. As has been mentioned elsewhere, these fees will probably become impossible to collect as most traveling business people will be getting tethered phones for their data service.  Most people who would then want to use a WiFi service would be infrequent travelers or people who didn’t really need WiFi that much, and none of those are going to pay much for WiFi that you can get for free at McDonalds.  I think the era of paid WiFi in hotel/convention spaces is coming to an end.

    1. I generally will tether to my phone’s data service except when in Canada you’re forced into paying outrageous roaming rates which make the $150/day wi-fi seem reasonable in comparison.

      It’s not uncommon to come back from a 3-4 day business trip to Toronto to a $200+ cell phone bill the following month.  Absurd roaming data charges is the new long distance gouging.

  9. I happened to be a few hundred meters from there this morning and saw both a telco-operated WiFi hotspot and power-utility-operated WiFi from my laptop.  That price makes me raise my eyebrow, and I would never pay it.  The price is an interesting data point, but market forces will do their thing here, and people will either pay or not.

  10. Um, it’s “Extreme”, people.  I’d say it’s worth it to be extreme.  If you’re not willing to pay to be extreme, then you’re just one of those sad people shaking their heads at household objects in the first several seconds of a tv ad before the product comes along and saves your life and returns color to more pleasurable saturation.


  11. Pretty much every convention center does this. I’ve been to scientific conventions in Orlando, Chicago and SF (3 of the largest convention centers in the US) and plenty of others at the Javits Center in NYC. WiFi is generally free in the hallways but goes for $100-150/day to use it in the convention halls or conference rooms. The big fish don’t care…it just gets expensed. The little companies and individuals not on an expense account either don’t use WiFi or just use a cell modem. In fact, at AACR in Orlando this year, one small company was using a MiFi that they’d run out and bought at the local Verizon store and split the cost with the booths around them who all connected for “free.” I just tether my Droid via Bluetooth and call it a day.

    1. All right, I’ll bite. HOW THE HELL can they tell if you’ve stepped through a door into a room from the hallway, in order to charge you for WiFi?

      1. Well, you’d have to enter a key, search for their wifi connection, and enter billing information. It’s impossible to just randomly charge people…..unless… service is now like cellular….is it really that easy now?,….so much hand shaking going on. 

  12. This kind of fantastic price jacking happened (happens?) at the Ocean Sciences meeting held in Portland Oregon at the ORegon Convention center ( We had a booth for the week and it was clearly cost effective to run out and buy a Verizon MiFi for full price (no contract) in order to get connectivity for our booth. Alas we discovered that Convention center had some kind of nasty software/hardware running that would stomp the MiFi’s wireless after about 60 seconds. It worked great outside the convention hall, didn’t work inside. The MiFi showed 4 bars, as did all the Verizon phones (which worked fine), and the MiFi worked fine as long as it was tethered to a computer.

    Nice. Really Nice.

  13. Just to clarify, this is about the Toronto International Centre, out on Airport Road by Pearson Intl.
    This is not about the better-known Metro Toronto Convention Centre downtown on Front St. (Though I can’t confirm what MTCC charges for wifi.)

    1. Metro Toronto convention Centre information:
      “Wireless Internet access – $395.00 per account per show (this account is valid for use on one
      computer at a time; account passwords can be transferred after a ten-minute interval)”

  14. The upcoming Pan-Am CGS Conference in Toronto is charging $350 for the 1st day and $50 for each subsequent day of the conference for a wired or WiFi connect. That’s $125/day over the course of the conference not including taxes!

    Shameful gouging is all I can think of. It makes we want to buy a FON and pay the $125/day just to give everyone else free, albeit shared, WiFi and thumb our collective noses at the conference organizers, the host hotel and the show services company who have perpetrated this pricing travesty.

  15. The Barcelona Fira conference centre has free wifi 365 days a year as do many of the parks and squares in the city. Maybe that’s why they get the GSM Mobile World Congress year after year. 
    Toronto International Centre appear to be charging their way out of business

  16. Have an iPhone 4 and a data plan and set up a personal hotspot. Buddy of mine did it at a bar last night. Probably some limitations, but with 6GB monthly plan enough for most business uses. 3G won’t be as nice as a real connection, but its better than paying (and supporting) that BS.

    1. Let’s say you are an American who traveled to Toronto… that iPhone personal hotspot could cost you some serous coin, especially if you don’t sign up for the ‘International Plan’ ($50 for 125mb of transfer) before hand.

      I was just in Toronto and had this exact problem and luckily turned off my hot spot before I racked up a serous bill. The phone charges were also steep (even WITH the international plan) It wasn’t worth $50 for the 4 days I was there so I only had internet in my room ($5 a day) and used GoogleMailPhone to make phone calls. 

      It never occurred to a colleague that the charges could get crazy expensive and ended up getting a bill for over $2000 in data charges in just over 3 days….

  17. Do they have a giant Faraday Cage around the convention center to intercept any signals that don’t come from within the building?

    1. Y’know, it’s funny that you suggest that… I was at FanExpo at this convention centre this year and one of the dealers I was getting some books from was having a hell of a time with their cell-connected credit card machine… they weren’t alone. I got the distinct feeling that there was some sort of jamming going on.

  18. Starbucks, Phoenix (Arizona) Convention Center, Smart Water, 33,8 oz, $8. In stores for $1.39. I didn’t feel so bad, they all passed a fantastic chilled water fountain on their way in. 

  19. The headline on this post is wrong. The article is about the Toronto International Centre, which is out on Airport Road near the airport, and not about the Toronto Metro Convention Centre, which is in downtown Toronto on Front St. The International Centre isn’t even in Toronto, actually. It’s in Mississauga, and is used for things like classic car auctions, motorcycle shows, boat shows, etc.

  20. This is a bit on the high-side, but convention and conference centers all over the world are notorious for this. Many charge upwards of $100/day. Some have $15/day or $10/day in lobby areas only, but if you speedtest it- you’ll find you are getting modem-grade speeds. Even for $100, you’ll be lucky to get 1Mbit.

    I also even had an IT guy at one of the centers my company went to tell me they will intentionally try to “jam” any 3G hotspots they find by cranking up the power on their own hotspots to interfere with them. “Sure- you can try to complain to the FCC, but it’s unlicensed spectrum and the building is private property.” Also- since many of convention centers (in particular) are giant reinforced concrete structures, and the convention floors are usually at a basement or ground level- good luck getting 3G or 4G anyway- it will be spotty at-best.

    Some better conventions can buy-out the house network for a week and/or bring in pico-cells (at great expense), but most won’t. If they do- they will usually gouge you worse than the center would. It’s a hell of a racket, and unfortunately (mostly) legal.

  21. Palm Springs had a tired old convention center that hardly got any business.  So it spent a shitload of money to build a gigantic new convention center that hardly gets any business.  These fees are just how they try to balance the books.  Kind of like parking tickets.

  22. This is, alas, common. I was working at an event in the Portola Hotel in Monterey, CA last week and I think they were charging $150 for 4-hours. The best part was the speed rating of “up to 784k/s!”. And the fact that I was setting up hours before the event started, so I’d have had to spend $300 if I wanted to actually test everything before working the event.

    Got around it with a jailbroken iphone and MyWi for wireless tethering.

  23. Evil Canadians. Politeness is just a ruse. We shoulda occupied the place a long time ago and turned it into a parking lot.

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