Ahh WI-FI! Commuters who ride the MBTA Commuter Rail know WI-FI all to well. I feel that we are very spoiled to have full (sometimes high-speed) wireless internet access on basically every train in the system! Yes, sometimes it does get frustrating when your trying to publish a post and the internet cuts out and everything is erased (yes it has happened) but c'mon its free!
Ever since its initial trail process in 2008, which made the MBTA and MBCR the first railroad operators in the U.S. to offer free WI-FI service on Commuter Rail trains, the service has been implemented on 258 of of the MBTA's 410 coaches and is being utilized by over 10,000 commuters daily!
In 2010 Amtrak launched its first free Wi-Fi service on their Acela Express service between Boston and Washington. Right away the service took off leaving commuters who use Northeast Regional and other Amtrak routes around the country demanding Wi-Fi service on their trains! After the Acela launch Amtrak created similar programs for their Cascades train in the Pacific Northwest and my favorite train The Downeaster! Well finally the day has come where more trains in the Amtrak system are receiving free Wi-Fi !
Today, October 31, 2011, Amtrak is rolling out full free Wi-Fi service on 7 of their routes including: Northeast Regional, The Vermonter, Empire Service, and The Carolinian! Limited Wi-Fi service (only selected coaches per train) is also being rolled out on four other Amtrak routes including: The Adirondack and The Palmetto. For a full list of Amtrak's new Wi-Fi connected routes visit Amtrak.com!
Wi-Fi- service has long been a priority for Amtrak. Their largest barrier for expanding service was that there was limited bandwidth on many of their routes. Amtrak's Wi-Fi service or "Amtrak Connect", just like the MBTA Wi-Fi, receives its coverage from cellular companies (The MBTA's is at&t). This sometimes causes inconsistencies in internet access as the trains travel along their routes due to the fact that some areas still don't have 3G towers. Amtrak is currently working with numerous cellular companies to try and expand their coverage. The "Amtrak Connect"technology is currently running on existing infrastructure but the way that it is designed it can take advantage of upgrades like 4G connectivity.