Why Is Amtrak Wi-Fi So Bad?

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
April 19 2012 8:42 AM

Followup: Amtrak Wi-Fi

I got a lot of feedback arguing that Amtrak's Northeast Corridor Wi-Fi is bad for the exact same reason mobile phone reception on Amtrak is bad, since Amtrak is just piggybacking on the mobile operators' network.

That's interesting and does explain it. But I guess my point is that Amtrak could invest in building an independent network capability that operated at higher speeds and with more reliability. And more to the point, if Amtrak did build something like that they could sell the Wi-Fi service to customers. After all, the problem for the mobile operators isn't that it would be technologically impossible to upgrade their service along the tracks it's that it would be very difficult for nationwide mobile phone operators to actually gain customers by doing this. Amtrak, by contrast, is ideally situated to sell Wifi access in a targeted way to train riders and probably get away with charging a very high fee in exchange for reliable service.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.