Most of those who read this blog or listened to my podcast Technobabble know that I am a truck driver. I am also a technology enthusiast so having access to internet is pretty important to me.

The trucking industry was slow to install wi-fi at their truckstops but things have changed over the last year or so.

All Pilot/Flying J’s, TA/Petro Stopping Centers and Love’s Travel Stops have wi-fi at their locations in the United States. What has changed recently is that a couple of these companies are now offering two tiers of wi-fi connections. A free tier and a paid tier.

I am still of the opinion that internet should be offered free period but Pilot/Flying J and Love’s claims that the paid tier give premium access to those oh-so-special bytes on the network. In the case of both, I have to agree. When you pay typically you have access to more bandwidth so you can perform a Skype call or watch streaming video. Sometimes you can do this on the free wi-fi as well but that seems to be hit or miss depending on the truck stop location.

I have had a harder time getting consistent connections and speed at TA/Petro locations having sometimes paid for their wi-fi then never being able to connect again afterwards. Not a huge deal but it is $6 US down the drain. Yes, $5.99. For 24 hours. Insane.

Now in Canada we have a completely different network of truck stops. In fact a lot of our truck stops, especially out west, are what we call “cardlocks”. Our diesel dispensaries include Esso (used to be a Husky/Esso partnership but that’s really no longer the case), Petro Canada SuperPass (the manned versions with a store and showers called Petro-Pass) and Flying J (whom is partnered with Shell Canada). There are some smaller networks that I don’t use and can’t really speak about. Most are unmanned fuel terminals that could be anywhere from one diesel pump to eight at locations along our long rural highways. Those never have wi-fi.

The cardlocks with stores attached sometimes have wi-fi. Most Petro-Pass locations have a low speed connection that requires you to be in a parking spot as close to the main building as possible to get any use out of. Flying J’s usually have wi-fi but it’s typically miserable if you even get connected (one exception being the Flying J south of Winnipeg, MB). And the Esso/Husky locations are wi-fi dead zones. A couple stops had free wi-fi at one point but they’ve long since let that die (along with free showers… like WTF Esso?).

I don’t understand the lack of wi-fi solutions along Canada’s transportation corridors. Why should truck drivers have to rely on our cellular phones for internet in a country where our phone providers rip us off for every nickel and dime they can (Canadians still pay nearly the highest rates for cell service in the entire world)?

When a truck fuels up they are spending typically well over $500. Typically that nets you a free shower (not at Esso/Husky anymore) but why not free decent Wi-Fi? The Americans can do it and their land based internet network prices are a tragedy compared to ours.