Free Wifi On BART: Agency May Soon Offer Wireless Internet

A new improvement could give BART commuters one less thing to gripe about.

A recently approved plan could bring effective WiFi to 100 BART train cars. The service is part of a $2.7 million contract to purchase 100 onboard communication devices.

The new technology will primarily serve a security purpose. The devices will stream live video to the transit agency's security and control centers. Lucky for riders, they will also create wireless hotspots within train cars.

Currently, BART offers a sad excuse for WiFi through a contract with WiFi Rail. Forty-four of BART's 669 train cars are equipped with weak, unreliable service. WiFi Rail chargers commuters for wifi and requires some users to watch advertisements.

"The fact is, we are dealing with a vendor that has had trouble coming up with the capital needed to fulfill the contract," Paul Oversier, BART's assistant general manager for operations, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

In a typical logical twist, the minds behind BART's current disastrous WiFi were hired to provide the brand new service. Thanks to a nearly $2.5 million contract, Oakland-based WiFi Rail will soon become the largest high bandwidth mobile Internet LAN in the U.S., according to the WiFi Rail web site.

BART began the search for a provider in October 2011. The agency received three bids. WiFi Rail's proposal provided a service that cost roughly $200,000 less than the other bidders, according to the minutes from the January 24 meeting when the proposal was approved.

The project will be funded in part by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.



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