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Amtrak Building ‘Trackside’ WiFi Network

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Ian Bush Ian Bush
Ian Bush is an anchor, reporter, news editor, and technology editor&nb...
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By Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Amtrak wants to improve the dismal experience for passengers hoping to hop online while they’re riding the rails.

Amtrak WiFi, “Provides a basic service. Basic access to the Internet,” says Lenetta McCampbell, head of passenger experience for Amtrak.

Even that might be an overstatement with sluggish, spotty coverage that trains along the Northeast Corridor get from cell towers.

“Passengers certainly would like to be able to do a lot more,” like stream video from YouTube or Netflix, or download big work presentations.

“We believe that technology has evolved sufficiently in the wireless space to enable us to construct what we’re calling a trackside network that would be true broadband.”

So they’re taking bids for a project to build just that kind of WiFi, with a minimum of 25 megabits per second per train.  Don’t look now: “Assuming the technology pans out, we expect the trackside network to take 5-6 years to build.”

She says the first test could come as early this winter in a section along the tracks in Delaware south of Wilmington.

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