Disconnecting in Toronto – Wait, I Didn’t Mean It *Litterally*!

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I remember checking my phone absentmindedly and still half-asleep when I climbed into the passenger seat in Ottawa. Technically, July 2 is a regular work day but many people take an extra long weekend after Canada Day to kick off summer. And technically, as a freelancer, I don’t need to ask anyone’s permission when I take a few days off work but I like to keep everyone happy so I do answer emails.

I did answer a few emails. Nothing urgent. Perfect. Invoices paid—even better.

“Let’s go?”


I put my Roots hoodie on, my earplug in, my MINISO travel pillow around my neck and I closed my eyes. If I’m not driving, I’m sleeping. The night was short—we spent the day downtown for Canada Day, then packing and cleaning the house took most of the evening.

I woke up three hours later. Stairway to Heaven was playing, Feng was singing along quietly, it was hot and sunny outside.

I pulled my phone out of my bag. A couple of emails. I checked Google Maps.

“We’re only in Cobourg?”

“Yeah, slow traffic. Construction season.”

We stopped in Newcastle for a bathroom and coffee break. Still an hour to go to Toronto.

There isn’t much to do when you’re stuck in traffic, so a few minutes later, I pulled out my phone again. I had just finished A Family Next Door the night before and I wanted to see is the author, Sally Hepworth, had written anything else.

“Weird… I don’t have any network.”

“Probably just a dead zone.”

“Right outside Toronto?”

Feng shrugged. Don’t ask him for network advice, he carries an old-fashioned flip phone.

“Wait a minute… It says ‘R.’ Like ‘roaming.’ Are you fucking kidding me? Does Videotron consider being in the GTA is ‘roaming’?”

Apparently, it does. Videotron’s wireless network doesn’t extend to Toronto. A city in the same fucking province, 400 km from Ottawa.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is why you can’t rely on your phone in Canada—our service providers suck.

We’re just taking a few days off in Toronto so it’s not a big deal for me, I just have to connect to free public Wi-Fi once in a while to make sure I didn’t miss any important email. We brought the laptop, there’s Wi-Fi at the Airbnb.

But still. European readers, can you imagine signing up with a provider in Paris and not being able to use your phone in Lyon or Marseille? That’s just ridiculous.

Arriving in Toronto, July 2019

Arriving in Toronto, July 2019

Queen Street, Toronto, July 2019

Queen Street, Toronto, July 2019

Eaton Centre, Toronto, July 2019

Eaton Centre, Toronto, July 2019

Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, July 2019

Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, July 2019

Front St W, Toronto, July 2019

Front St W, Toronto, July 2019


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


    • That’s… not a super constructive comment! Telco companies suck. But I wouldn’t jump to “Canada is a scam”, I wasn’t scammed into coming here and life is mostly alright.

  1. Martin Penwald on

    I don’t have much connexion problems with Telus, Canada-wide. But it’s expensive if you compare to what is available in Europe or Asia.

    • I’m guessing larger providers are more reliable but more expensive. My plan is cheaper (for Canada) but for you, it makes sense to have a reliable network Canada-wide.

  2. I couldn’t believe how cheap the phone plans were in France. 10 euros unlimited everything??? That’s amazing. Why are we so behind when it comes to free market telecomm?? Even in the Caribbean, where island life makes everything slightly more expensive, I could get 30 GB for 40 euros, which is still 500x better than anything you’d get in Canada. Plus it worked on every island from Grenada to the BVIs. So depressing.

    For Videotron, was it just a glitch in Newcastle (which is a bit of a hole) or did you not have service the whole time you were in Toronto?

    • No service for the whole week! I was able to use my phone to call Feng if needed (mostly so that he would come down and open the door, one key fob for two at the Airbnb…) but zero data, so no access to emails. On the way back, coverage started again just before Barrhaven, which I find is completely crazy.

    • Martin Penwald on

      One of the problem or Canada and the U.S is the very low population density. Providers, either for wired or cell services, have to use more hardware to cover as much population than in Europe or Asia, so it’s more costly.
      But there is a market for local operators who cover small dense areas.

      • I don’t buy this excuse anymore, especially considering Ontario/Quebec is far from being a low population density area. I would have understood not having network north of Northern Ontario… but in Toronto?!

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