Amtrak goes wireless

When Brendan Harrington ’13 rode the Acela Express — Amtrak’s high-speed rail service in the Northeast — this week, he discovered a new feature: wireless Internet service. While the connection was slower than he may have liked, he said he was happy about the new service.

On March 1, Amtrak introduced complimentary wireless Internet service on its Acela Express trains and in six major stations along the Northeast Corridor. Eleven interviewed students were divided on whether the service was necessary or economically feasible.

In a press release, Amtrak said its wireless Internet service, called AmtrakConnect, will allow passengers to make their trips more productive.

“AmtrakConnect delivers the fast, reliable and consistent connectivity that our customers have been asking for,” said sales distribution and customer service chief Matt Hardison.

Five students interviewed said Amtrak’s decision to add wireless Internet was long overdue, although they were not convinced that the service would increase the number of Amtrak customers.

“I think it was only a matter of time before they put wireless Internet service on trains,” Julia Pucci ’13 said. “I hated that you went into a technological black hole every time you boarded.”

Ashutosh Venkatraman ’13 said the service will allow passengers to check their e-mail as often as they would at work or at home. And Alberto Navarro ’13, who travels often, said he was grateful for the service since it offers a great distraction during never-ending train rides.

“Having some Internet connection is just more convenient and makes me more likely to ride Amtrak,” Harrington said.

Although the AmtrakConnect service will remain free of charge during an introductory period, two students said they were concerned it would not remain this way for long, and three said they thought the ticket prices will rise eventually.

“Unless Amtrak can prove that this decision will increase the number of people who board the train and thereby make enough money to relieve the burden on the taxpayers, it is an awful idea,” James Benkowski ’13 said.

Yet even if Amtrak provides wireless service, some students said they prefer to take a break from technology.

“I just hope people remember to look out the window and enjoy whatever it is that disappears too quickly,” Amy Larsen ’10 said.

Wireless Internet service is available at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station, Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Station, Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, New York’s Pennsylvania Station, Providence Station and Boston’s Route 128 Station. Many buses and airplanes have recently begun offering wireless Internet service, but not always for free.

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