When it comes to wireless Internet, commuters in some U.S. cities have trouble getting on the bandwagon — or more precisely, the bus, train and subway.
Recent news stories have highlighted the efforts of municipal leaders to provide free mobile Internet access for public transit, as well as the challenges they face. It seems that maintaining a reliable Internet connection on a train traveling as fast as 60 mph, for instance, poses a major problem.
Finding a 4G solution
However, some experts see the answer in the expansion of “Fourth Generation” network coverage, or 4G. A 4G network provides better connections and more capacity than its 3G predecessors, which were designed with cell phones and voice data in mind.
One success story comes from Northern California. In Santa Clara, buses and light-rail trains feature Internet connectivity through the Clearwire 4G network. The routers have been “ruggedized” to better withstand bumps and jolts.
And in Boston, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority hails the success of 4G wireless service on The T subway system.
The new digital infrastructure
Campaigns for public transit Wi-Fi demonstrate how Internet access has come to be seen as an essential part of municipal services, just like utilities and public libraries.
To meet the demand, local governments face two hurdles: technological and financial. The system itself has to work, and so does the business model that pays for the startup and ongoing costs.
Expect cities across the country to continue looking east to Boston and west to Santa Clara for inspiration.