Multitaskers, Social Media Addicts, and Show-Watchers Rejoice
Amtraks officials have recently announced plans to increase the speed of their free, on-board Wi-Fi from 10 mbps to 25. The project, announced several days ago, will provide this 25 mbps connection to all Amtrak trains in the 457 mile stretch of the Northeast corridor.
SEE ALSO: Secrets To Finding Free WiFi Hotspots
What These Numbers Are Really Saying
This is an exciting announcement for many frequent riders, sure, but its one that says more about failure than it really does about success. Amtrak's current Wi-Fi speed, a dismal 10 mbps, is enough bandwidth for low-tier gaming or video streaming on one device.
Realistically, 10 mbps can barely support regular internet use for a family of four. For a service like Amtrak, and a whole train full of users, a speed like this means it's passengers can't browse comfortably without fear of dropped connections. When checking email and browsing webpages, connection is spotty and unreliable at best, while watching video, streaming music, or downloading large files is out of the question.
The Amtrak website states that "this free amenity supports general web browsing activities only. WiFi does not support high-bandwidth actions such as streaming music, streaming video or downloading large files." Many users have reported the WiFi as so intolerable that they have resorted to setting up their own hotspots, an apparent indicator that the free service just isnt doing its job.
This bare-minimum support is the upgraded version Amtrak has previously made efforts to increase WiFi speeds, most recently in May of 2013. Through the years, complaints about Wi-Fi have been continuous, but this specific proposal is especially surprising. In 2012, it was revealed that Amtrak was a billion dollars
in debt. Although it may seem like they are currently back on track
, the company is still recovering from its previous financial instability, making the choice to focus on WiFi an interesting one.
Faster Is Always Better
Either way, this large-scale speed increase is a godsend. The goal of 25 mbps means Amtrak will be more than doubling available internet speed, bringing it to a speed similar to an entry-level cable connection. In reality, this means giving its passengers an experience that's finally comparable to what they might get at home.
Though construction begins this winter, it may take a couple of years for these upgraded speeds to be available for all passengers. Once construction finishes, however, Amtraks WiFi will be powerful enough to allow passengers to comfortably enjoy services such as YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, and Spotify, indicating at least a tiny quality-of-life improvement for frequent Amtrak riders, at (currently) no additional cost.
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Amtrak Free WiFi: What It Could Mean For The Future Of Internet Access
The announcement comes in the midst of frequent net neutrality conversations, as internet users and companies speak out against a law which will allow internet providers to create a metaphorical slow lane and fast lane of connectivity. Recently, John Oliver's segment on his show Last Week Tonight encouraged internet masses to leave pro-net-neutrality comments on the FCC website, a suggestion so widely embraced that it reportedly crashed the government site for several hours.
This is a pretty good indicator of where we're heading in regards to internet access. As we begin to see the internet as a cultural cornerstone and national staple, for this generation and for those to come, it's becoming less of a commodity and more of a necessity. Amtrak's attempts to provide riders with a comfortable, modern experience by focusing on bringing their internet up to speed tells us a lot about the companys understanding of this.