Riders on Amtrak's Hiawatha trains, along with passengers on seven other Midwestern routes, will have wireless Internet access by early February, Amtrak said in a release.
The rail company is installing equipment on cars under contracts with the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Missouri, and the service will reach more than 3 million passengers annually. The Hiawatha, which consists of 17 cars running between Milwaukee and Chicago, is the busiest corridor in the Midwest with more than 800,000 riders annually.
Trains getting Internet service aside from the Hiawatha include routes from Chicago to St. Louis, Carbondale and Quincy, Ill.; from Chicago to Detroit and Pontiac, Port Huron and Grand Rapids, Mich.; and St. Louis to Kansas City, Mo.
A completion date will be announced next month.
Amtrak has done research that indicates Wi-Fi could increase use of its train services, possibly attracting even more riders to the Hiawatha.
Capital costs for Wi-Fi service for Wisconsin's Department of Transportation are about $300,000, according to Wisconsin's agreement with Amtrak, dated Aug. 23. Total operational costs, which include technical support, are about $86,000 a year. Wisconsin pays for 75% of costs, while the State of Illinois pays for the rest.
AmtrakConnect Wi-Fi, the train corporation's network, is already available to 75% of U.S. passengers on trains in the Northeast, Pacific Northwest and in California. The cellular-based technology combines networks from several cell phone carriers and supports general web browsing. It doesn't support live streaming or large downloads, according to Amtrak's website.
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