When the MTA and Transit Wireless gathered to debut their expansion of underground cell service and free wifi, I thought things went off pretty smoothly. Following the April launch, I used the system regularly, and while having to authenticate through the 15-second pre-roll ad at each station became annoying, the service was speedy and reliable. And then I went on vacation.
For 10 days in late June and early July, I was out of town, and upon my return, the free wifi was anything but. Instead of a preroll ad, I was greeted with the screenshot you see at right. Boingo was trying to convince me to pony up some money for the service, and I had assumed that Transit Wireless had lost a sponsor. I asked the MTA about the service, and a spokesman said it still should be free. I, however, have had no luck connecting in the three weeks I’ve been back in the city. I’m curious to hear if others are having the same problem.
Of course, for most people, this isn’t a big problem. AT&T and T-Mobile are already providing cellular and data service underground, and the wifi was a bonus. It allows users to avoid chewing up data and is speedier than the cell networks’ services, but it’s a luxury. Eventually, all four major carriers will offer their high-speed services underground, and as of today, in fact, we’re just waiting on Verizon.
As The Wall Street Journal reported this morning, Sprint has come to terms with Transit Wireless, and the carrier’s signal will soon be snaking its way into subway stations. Those with Sprint, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile can look forward to a signal at the 36 current stations in early 2014, and Transit Wireless will now include those carriers as it expands its offerings to another 40 stations throughout the first part of 2014.
I’m with Verizon, and there’s still no word of when this telecom and Transit Wireless will reach a deal. So for now, I’m stuck with a service trying to charge me and no other underground wifi access. The future — free Internet while waiting for a train — was so fleeting and so wonderful. I hope it comes back again soon.