By Ted Nesi
PBN Web Editor
PROVIDENCE – Amtrak said Wednesday it has decided to make free wireless Internet service a permanent offering on its Acela Express trains and to expand the service to other routes.
The AmtrakConnect Wi-Fi service was introduced on March 1 on the high-speed trains, which have run between Boston and Washington since 2000. Amtrak said at that time it would review whether to charge for the service after an introductory period.
Matt Hardison, Amtrak’s chief of sales distribution and customer service, said Wednesday the service proved popular and reliable during a three-month trial run, which led the passenger-rail service’s management to make it permanent.
Onboard surveys by Amtrak showed about 115,000 Acela passengers used the Wi-Fi service per month, or about 39 percent of total readership, and 76 percent of them rated it favorably or strongly favorably.
“We’ve had tremendous positive passenger response to having Wi-Fi available onboard, and keeping it free of charge will support increased ridership growth,” Hardison said.
Amtrak plans to upgrade the Acela’s current wireless infrastructure to increase bandwidth in order to meet customer demand for video, he said.
Amtrak said it plans to add AmtrakConnect to its California service routes starting this fall, followed by the Northeast Regional service, which runs from Massachusetts to Virginia.
The Wi-Fi service is also available inside the gate areas of some stations where the Acela stops, including Providence and Route 128.
Additional information is available at amtrak.com.