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put wi-fi on new york commuter trains. corante new york: about us | rss | advertise | contact us home > weblog columns > corante new york weblog columns [select a blog] [corante blog] between lawyers: technology + culture + law brain waves: neurons, bits & genes civic minded: connected community copyfight: the politics of intellectual property flackster: clued-in pr future tense: the future of work going global: web globalization got game?: the future of play goyami: search engine marketing ideaflow: creativity + innovation in the pipeline: drug discovery many-to-many: social software rebuilding media: the economics of media strange attractor: social media the loom: life, past and future total experience: experience design about this, the first of our regional blogs, is authored by the technology and financial journalist dominic basulto. dominic is a new york native, has been a senior editor at corante since day one and has written for a number of online and offline media companies. send tips or story ideas to: basulto@gmail.com. about this weblog here we'll report daily on the latest tech and business developments in new york city. impossible we concede: comprehensive coverage of the city's every story. what we hope you'll find: tips, tidbits and perspectives you won't find elsewhere. as well as unique insights, original interviews and more that should be of interest to new york's vibrant community of technologists and those who track, invest in and report on them. links buzz machine i want media the politicker paid content annotated ny times fishbowlny gothamist curbed donald trump global macro jason kottke david pogue steven johnson james cramer pressthink dana spiegel micah sifry douglas rushkoff alan meckler micro persuasion seth goldstein rick bruner mitch ratcliffe tom watson newyorkology ben silverman nyc bloggers craigblog adam l. penenberg reblog fred wilson steve brotman beyond vc tech law advisor meg hourihan joel on software james wolcott podcastnyc blog adam balkin, ny1 anil dash josh rubin var site="s11corante" var site="s19newyork" join these new facebook groups on: mobile messaging 2.0, marketing 2.0, and enterprise 2.0 « 250,000 images never seen before online | main | how sirius satellite radio works » march 04, 2005 put wi-fi on new york commuter trains posted by dominic basulto in november, the gotham gazette ran a piece by sarah myland kaufman urging the mta to put wi-fi internet access on commuter trains like metro-north and the lirr. while other major metropolitan areas like london, paris, seattle and tokyo are all considering wi-fi on various forms of commuter transportation, the mta has stated several times that it has no intention of providing wireless internet access. as of now, writes kaufman, "new york city provides wi-fi on no transportation mode other than the hampton jitney and the limoliner luxury bus to boston." so who better to ask about wi-fi for the new york commuter rails than craig plunkett, a self-described "new york wi-fi guy" who was instrumental in putting wi-fi on the hampton jitney? (be sure to watch his quicktime movie about wi-fi on the hampton jitney - an "epic tale of bandwidth and mobility for high-powered hamptonites.") last june, the new york times profiled the hampton jitney's wi-fi rollout, mentioning plunkett and his company cedx. below, plunkett answers a few questions about wi-fi and the mta for corante readers: q. does it make sense for the mta to install a system-wide wi-fi network in the subway or on the commuter rail lines like metro-north or the lirr? "wi-fi in the subway would be a total loser, unless it was a comprehensive, vendor-neutral network that could carry both licensed and unlicensed network traffic (i include voice here too, whatever your opinion on subway cell conversations are). commuter rail is a much easier, lower hanging fruit to pick with far better returns, especially in the new york metro region. if you confine your revenue source to public wi-fi, there wouldn't be nearly enough revenue to cover the cost of a subway buildout. plus, better subscriber devices and authentication methods more suited to subway travel need to come along. dual mode wi-fi/cell phones are the most likely devices to drive that usage. average people (aol users, not geeks and early adopters like corante readers) also don't stay long enough in a subway station to use a laptop, which is where the revenue is coming from right now." q. what would be the cost of retrofitting one subway line with wi-fi? "a really big number, because in the subway system, you have to use leaky coax to form the edge of the network, which is what is used to provide wireless coverage in the east river and hudson tunnels. extrapolate from what it cost verizon to do the east river amtrak tunnels. you'd also have to use fiber to connect each station together. there's fiber in the subway tunnels for comms anyway so that's in place. i had heard that nextel was negotiating with the real estate department of the mta to light up the subway, but that was at least a year ago." q. based on your experience with the hampton jitney, what are the major stumbling blocks to putting wi-fi in the subway and on the commuter rail lines? "the major stumbling blocks are the mta and the railroads themselves. i don't know if its a lack of will or concern, or the reservation of the mta as a private hunting ground for firms represented by well-connected lobbyists, but in the three years i've been trying, i haven't met a single person that was even willing to champion the idea. i've applied to our local congressional delegation for an appropriation, and it seems reasonable to get the funds for a pilot buildout, along the lines of the washington state ferry system's model, but a basic requirement of getting an appropriation like that is that you have to have somebody within the mta willing to work with you, and that's like looking for hen's teeth. the federal reps have been gracious and met with us to discuss the idea, but without a driver within the mta, you're going nowhere. one mta guy laughed when i asked the question,"is there anybody in the organization that is measured on passenger satisfaction?" i met katherine lapp at a long island association meeting last year, and she said that onboard internet access was going to be left to the discretion of the individual railroads. the first metro-north guy that i demoed wi-fi to in november of 2002 said, "how come at&t isn't coming to me with this?" the lirr is drinking the 3g kool-aid peddled by the wireless carriers who say that everybody will have a cellular connection in their laptop in 2 years. one guy doesn't even return phone calls from me after i was referred to him by his boss. the technology is the smallest issue. the same box we use on the bus can be inserted into the hole left by the removal of the railcall phones, and we could probably deploy in about 90 days. the largest technology issue would be getting clean power from the train itself, but that's trivial. we work with a firm that did power supplies for the san diego trolleys, and they say it's easy. the most recent official reason for not doing it was the excuse that they are phasing out older cars, but of course we wouldn't deploy to those, we'd put them on the new ones, and install it in the older ones as they go through the overhaul process. so not every car would have wi-fi, but not every car has a bathroom, either. the mta is such a large organization, they don't want to work with a small firm such as ours, even though we have a system in operation and have more experience at running wi-fi nets than any other firm in the area. if they wait for the full fruition of 3g, they may wait forever and be shut out of a revenue source, both direct and indirect, because the carriers don't really need to rent much real estate from the mta. any additional fannies in the seats are more direct revenue from a ticket sold, more indirect from the revenue split on the wi-fi, and another car off the road, with all the social benefits that come from that. it's just such a no brainer, especially in the areas not served by electric trains, it mystifies me why all these doors are closed to my firm. there's buckets of money left for 9/11 rebuilding, that could be used to strengthen the region's transportation system and ease the burden on the motor facilities. if i had $2 million to put free wi-fi on the lirr, i could probably get more people to use the railroad in a year than the east side access project will in 2010 when it's projected to be completed after billions in costs." q. how would the mta fund the build-out of the wi-fi network? "the mta wouldn't spend a dime, the provider would build out the network and do a revenue split, or at least that's the deal i proposed. metro-north just issued an airport style rfp to build out a vendor-neutral cell/wi-fi network in grand central terminal and the park avenue tunnels." thanks, craig, for your time. be sure to check out the wi-ran site for more information and updates about wi-fi and public transportation. comments (0) + trackbacks (0) | category: wireless trackback url: http://www.corante.com/cgi-bin/mt/external.cgi/30833 email this entry to a friend email this entry to: your email address: message (optional): related entries › east village bar up for sale on ebay › eliot spitzer takes on the national cinema chains › california winemakers to sell wine to new yorkers via the internet › a blogger could become "media person of the year" › a la carte cable tv pricing › nysia incubator launch party tonight › why the mathematics of congestion pricing don't work › enjoy the holiday shopping bargains at century 21 while you can train 10 or 10,000 people a month online with gotomeeting. one low flat fee means no overage charges – and lower travel costs. free 30-day trial. check out ideaflow by renee hopkins callahan for the latest on innovation trends and practices. on her radar screen: the creativity of bipolar children, democrats' call for an "innovation agenda", grocery store innovations, creating a culture of business experimentation, and more. this blog all recent entries › east village bar up for sale on ebay › eliot spitzer takes on the national cinema chains › california winemakers to sell wine to new yorkers via the internet › a blogger could become "media person of the year" › a la carte cable tv pricing › nysia incubator launch party tonight › why the mathematics of congestion pricing don't work › enjoy the holiday shopping bargains at century 21 while you can › new york's wi-fi networks a big draw for visiting brits › new york's videogame whiz is the best in the world › categories › advertising (68) [xml] › big thinkers (59) [xml] › biotech (45) [xml] › blink › (151) [xml] › broadband (7) [xml] › computers (39) [xml] › deals (42) [xml] › del.icio.us (1) [xml] › e-business (33) [xml] › economic outlook (73) [xml] › events (56) [xml] › government (129) [xml] › internet (298) [xml] › media (163) [xml] › open source (3) [xml] › personal tech (91) [xml] › photoblogging (14) [xml] › podcasting (26) [xml] › satellite radio (43) [xml] › science (23) [xml] › shameless promotion (6) [xml] › software (13) [xml] › tagging (2) [xml] › telecom (31) [xml] › venture capital (50) [xml] › wall street (89) [xml] › wireless (79) [xml] › archives › december 2005 (5) › november 2005 (56) › october 2005 (90) › september 2005 (113) › august 2005 (120) › july 2005 (134) › june 2005 (156) › may 2005 (155) › april 2005 (142) › march 2005 (160) › february 2005 (130) › january 2005 (186) › december 2004 (180) › november 2004 (37) about us | advertise | contact us | privacy policy | terms of use © copyright 2006 corante. all rights reserved.
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