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Amtrak to Launch High-Speed Wi-Fi

Amtrak plans to build a high-speed, trackside wireless network so passengers can reliably stream media and download large files while on a train.

Amtrak plans to launch high-speed Wi-Fi service that will allow streaming media and downloading large files. Credit: File|Patch
Amtrak plans to launch high-speed Wi-Fi service that will allow streaming media and downloading large files. Credit: File|Patch
By Sydney Wu

Being stuck on a train without Internet access to let you work, catch up on social media or find online entertainment to pass the time is a frustration for most travelers.

Amtrak officials have heard customer complaints and plan to build and launch a trackside Wi-Fi network with broadband speeds for the Northeast Corridor -- Washington, D.C., to Boston.

Amtrak’s current Wi-Fi network does not support high-bandwidth browsing -- no streaming music, no streaming video, no downloading large files . . . but you could probably read this article while on board.

“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 -- and we want to make that possible,” said Matt Hardison, Amtrak chief marketing and sales officer.

The plan is to construct a wireless trackside network along the 457-mile Northeast Corridor that will increase the current bandwidth of 10 Mbps to a minimum of 25 Mbps, eliminating the restrictions on streaming media and downloading large files.

Amtrak is soliciting bids for the proof-of-concept project until July 28.

“Our hope is to be under construction this winter, with a 10-mile proof of concept section,” said Lenetta McCampbell, senior director of passenger experience, according to WTOP. “That’s going to occur in Delaware and let us test the technology and our ability to do the construction project on a very busy railroad -- the busiest railroad in North America.”

Amtrak currently does not know whether the high-speed Wi-Fi will be free, an extra cost added into the ticket price, or a separate fee entirely, WTOP reports, and no date has been released as to when this upgrade will become available. 

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