Transport Trains

Amtrak Wants to Offer Riders High-Speed, Reliable Wi-Fi on Its Best Route

@SamShankman

Jun 09, 2014 3:30 pm

Skift Take

It’s a lofty, but necessary ambition that will take several years to put in place at Amtrak’s speed. Faster Wi-Fi and high-speed service are features that riders will be pining after for the foreseeable future despite rail’s discussions.

— Samantha Shankman

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Larry Downing  / Reuters

Amtrak's high speed Acela at Washington's Union Station seen after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announced in Philadelphia that the U.S. government will dedicate $53 billion over six years to build new high-speed rail networks and make existing ones faster, February 8, 2011. Larry Downing / Reuters


Spotty and slow Wi-Fi is among Amtrak riders’ greatest complaints along the Northeast Corridor, which is why Amtrak today announced plans to upgrade its on-board Wi-Fi service along the well-traveled route, which runs from Washington to Boston.

The goal is to build a wireless network that provides “a true broadband experience,” which would close coverage gaps and drop restrictions on streaming media and large file downloads. An upgrade that could mean the difference between business travelers checking emails and catching up on Netflix between meetings.

“We know that our customers want a consistently reliable and fast on-board Wi-Fi experience – something we cannot guarantee today on our busiest trains when hundreds of customers want to go online at the same time,” said Amtrak’s chief marketing and sales officer, Matt Hardison, in the release. “We want to make that possible.”

Although Amtrak is now soliciting bids for the the proof-of-concept project to increase available bandwidth per train from 10 Mbps to 25 Mbps, Re/code considers that a “negligible” improvement that would still result in slow speeds for passengers.

It has another idea for Amtrak:

“Amtrak would be far better off pitching this job to Google as a gigabit-fiber experiment. And, frankly, Google would do well to entertain the idea if it did. Certainly, it would be cheaper than hiring lobbyists in D.C., bankers in N.Y. and recruiters in Cambridge.”

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