My Acela Train Has Wifi Plus Fun Terms And Conditions


I'm on an Acela Amtrak train from Boston back to NYC, and for the first time I saw a wifi SSID that wasn't "Mr. Hackathon's Free Public Wifi For Theftification Of Your Identity." Instead, it read "Acela_Test_Channel_2"

I was already online with my Sprint EVDO wireless data card but decided to test out this Acela wifi. Here's the page I got

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The full text of the terms and conditions is:

Amtrak is testing onboard WiFi and offering free Internet access during the test period. There is no guarantee that you will be able to establish a connection. Amtrak does not provide technical assistance for connecting to the wireless network.

Amtrak cannot guarantee Internet speed or quality of connection. Speed is dependent on the number of concurrent users and types of applications being run. As with any Internet connection, the speed may fluctuate due to heavy Internet traffic. When the wireless channel is fully loaded, access may be denied.

Amtrak is not responsible for any damage to data files, alteration to file systems, the functionality of your computer, or any resulting losses relating to connecting to the wireless network.

The wireless connection cannot be used for any illegal purposes. Downloads of large files or streaming video will cause the session to be terminated. Access to inappropriate sites is also prohibited.  Amtrak reserves the right to terminate the session of any user accessing sites found objectionable or offensive by other passengers.

That last paragraph of terms and conditions is gonna be fun.

  • The first sentence is false. The wireless connection can definitely be used for illegal purposes. I just did something illegal (no, I'm not telling you, but it wasn't legal!).
  • No streaming video? That sucks. I had a great business idea called TrainCam where people would watch me on the train, and I would watch other people on my same train streaming themselves on the train and we'd create an infinitely reflective tunnel of self-referential live web videos that would ultimately collapse in a black hole of narcissistic user generated media.
  • What's an "inappropriate site?"
  • And the last point, I'm just waiting to test that one out. Conceivably , if enough of us complain, we can get Amtrak to cut off the connection for folks who visit RushLimbaugh.com, which I think we can all agree is objectionable, offensive and highly inappropropriate.

I did a speed test of the Acela wifi test vs. my Sprint card came to two conclusions. First, Sprint is providing the data connection for this train's test. Second, I'm sticking with my own card.

Here's the train:

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Download is weak. Upload is awesome. Latency is wack.

Here's my card:

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My downloads were 3x that of the train (somewhat expected given the shared and test nature of trhe Acela connection). Surprisingly, the train's upload is better than my aircard. This I cannot explain.

That's all for now. Obviously the Acela should have wifi, and obviously it should block access to RushLimbaugh.com