WiFi on the Commuter Rail

When I heard there’d soon be free WiFi on the Worchester line (which is the one I take every day) I couldn’t stop grinning. I considered it to be a potentially life-altering development. A week later and a few opportunities to try it out here’s what I think.

First of all, it is totally nice to be able to get online on the train. I know lots of people already do with WiMax and Mobile Broadband but for the rest of us it’s nice to have an opportunity. It does seem like the program – especially in the early days – is a little confused. I have seen a number of on-train networks: DemoProject, Junctionbox and Commuter Rail Connect.

DemoProject – which gave me a nice strong signal on Friday morning wouldn’t actually allow me to connect with anything. Junctionbox that afternoon gave me a connection and a strong signal but was incredibly slow. CRC is the official network and this morning brought me to the T’s terms and conditions page.

Right now the connection is technically limited to one car. I’ve looked for the network in cars not marked with the on board broadband sticker and haven’t had any luck. I’ll bet if you were in the very next car you could get on no trouble.

I get on in Natick and the signal has been strong all the way into the city. The speed isn’t terrific – 400k down and 200k up but it’s better than nothing. I haven’t seen anyone else using the connection on any of the trains I’ve been on and I wonder how slow it will be if there are 30 or 40 people sharing the bandwidth. It won’t be pretty.

On the train this morning

I’ve been using it for pretty light online activity – posting to this blog, IM, twitter, etc. While it might not be the fastest connection you’re going to find it’s free, fast(ish) and sure makes the commute a little more pleasant. Hats off the the MBTA for taking this first step.


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