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6/25/2008
11:22 AM
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Can't Get Wi-Fi In Boston? Try The Boats And The Trains

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said it was launching Wi-Fi on its commuter boat service following its successful launch of free Wi-Fi on some MBTA rail service.

While the City of Boston has given up on providing a citywide municipal Wi-Fi network, citizens traveling to and from the city can stay connected before they reach the city's dead wireless zone. In the latest development, commuters can get free Wi-Fi on 11 commuter boats.

Announced this week by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the commuter boat service follows the successful launch of free Wi-Fi on some MBTA rail service. The commuter boat service connects several oceanside communities with downtown Boston and its Logan Airport.

"It's natural," said MBTA general manager Daniel Grabauskas at a press conference this week. "There are tables. People can sit. They're here for 30, 45 minutes. This is something you can't do in your car."

Alas, you can't do it in most of Boston either. Just a few months ago, the city effectively gave up on an ambitious $20 million combination government-private effort to cover much of the city with Wi-Fi. The money didn't materialize and neither did the wide area network. However, some hotspots were established and they have drawn users in droves.

From the beginnings of its effort to offer Wi-Fi on trains, Grabauskas has focused on the competitive aspect of making public transportation more attractive than driving in cars. MBTA usage was up 6.2% this year over last year's first four months, but boat passenger traffic was down.

The reception to the free Wi-Fi in trains and the initial use in boats has been such that the MBTA plans to expand the service to other commuter lines later this year.

The commuter boats made 4,200 weekday trips in April.

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