The age of slow Wi-Fi on commuter trains traveling between Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. could be nearing an end. Amtrak announced on Monday that they are seeking bids from contractors to build a proof-of-concept proposal for a Wi-Fi network along train tracks in the Northeast Corridor. According to Amtrak’s Christina Leeds, the organization’s current goal is figuring out the feasibility of a 25mbps-per-train network, which would offer travelers Internet speeds similar to those of broadband providers like Comcast. Contractors are also required in their proposals to provide infrastructure for even faster on-train Internet access times in the future.
“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. We want to make that possible,” Amtrak chief marketing officer Matt Hardison said in a press release.
Travelers on Amtrak’s northeast corridor routes, which ply America’s most heavily trafficked business travel routes, often deal with frustratingly slow Internet connections. But there’s one big challenge for everyone waiting for fast train Wi-Fi: Amtrak’s legendarily poor finances. The train operator was careful to note their bid solicitation for the Wi-Fi project was proof-of-concept only, and is struggling with massive budgetary problems. But for the swarms of professionals crowding Union Station, Penn Station, and Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station every morning, speedy Wi-Fi on their business trips would be very sweet indeed.