Amtrak wants better Wi-Fi

Amtrak is looking to upgrade the wireless Internet it offers along the 457-mile Northeast corridor.

The train line has offered Wi-Fi to riders from Washington to Boston for a handful of years, but the service has been frustratingly slow and often cuts out at points through the trip on a crowded train. For some regular commuters, the poor service has become something of a recurring joke.

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Amtrak wants that to change.

“We know that our customers want a consistently reliable and fast on-board Wi-Fi experience — something we cannot guarantee today on our busiest trains when hundreds of customers want to go online at the same time — and we want to make that possible,” Amtrak chief marketing and sales officer Matt Hardison said in a statement.

The Wi-Fi connection along the popular route is currently 10 Mbps, but the company is looking for bids to boost that to at least 25 Mbps, which would be a significant upgrade. Web speeds could rise even further in the future, as technology permits, Amtrak said.

Additionally, Amtrak would drop current restrictions that prevent riders from downloading large files and streaming music and video, which would allow people along the Northeast corridor to watch movies on Netflix and Hulu and stream songs on Spotify.

The company is currently accepting bids to build a test project through July 28. The outcome of that test will determine “whether it is technically and financially feasible to construct such a network” to build a network along the entire rail line, Amtrak said.

The company did not provide an estimate for when the new wireless Internet service could be fully operational.

Amtrak has asked for a $260 million bump in federal money from Congress this year to deal with a surge of riders, especially along the popular Northeast corridor. Trains on that route are turning a profit for the company, however some of the money is going to subsidize long-distance trains in rural areas.