AV + Connectivity

Amtrak and the Continuing Rise of Wi-Fi Entitlement

Increasingly, we expect Wi-Fi to be everywhere. Is this realistic?

An executive with Smart City, a company that provides Internet service to convention centers, told Convene that “We’re very close to the point where we show up to a building and [when] there’s no access [the reaction is,] ‘Well, what do you mean there’s no Internet?’ Everybody depends on it.”

I think this attitude of Wi-Fi entitlement has only grown since then. Or, okay, my own attitude of Wi-Fi entitlement has grown — at the meetings and conferences I attend, and especially on the train, which I take from Washington, D.C., to New York City every month to close each issue of Convene. Amtrak rolled out free Wi-Fi on its premium Acela service last year, but I ride the company’s standard Northeast Corridor line, which doesn’t have Wi-Fi. I’ve never been able to understand it, given the numbers of business travelers who use the Northeast Corridor service every day, and during my last few trips I’ve gotten pretty close to angry about it. I get a lot of work done during the three-and-a-half hour trip, but could operate even more efficiently if I had Internet access, free or otherwise.

So for me, it’s a happy day: Amtrak has announced that it will “install AmtrakConnect on Northeast Corridor services and on more West Coast trains by the end of this year.” But wait, there’s more: “Further enhancements to the on-board Wi-Fi service offering include en-route entertainment options and real-time train position information so that passengers can track their journey’s progress.” Sure, all that’d be nice, too, especially if I were traveling with my daughters and looking to distract them. But really I’m all about that Wi-Fi.

How about you? Do you have a personal expectation of unbroken Internet connectivity when you travel? What about your attendees? Do they show up expecting you to keep them on the grid, all the time? Should they?

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso is executive editor of Convene.