Plans to test high-speed wireless Internet Wi-Fi service on the Seattle-Bremerton ferry run have been dropped because ferry officials have not been able to secure...
Plans to test high-speed wireless Internet Wi-Fi service on the Seattle-Bremerton ferry run have been dropped because ferry officials have not been able to secure rights for an antenna in the Blake Island area.
The service will be made available on the Edmonds-Kingston route a week from today, and on the Seattle-Bainbridge Island route by the end of the month, ferry officials said. It’s already available on the Port Townsend-Keystone route.
The service, which is free for at least three months while its popularity is being assessed, allows passengers to browse Web sites, send e-mails or catch up on work while commuting. They need a Wi-Fi card or a Wi-Fi-capable laptop to get online.
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If the service proves popular, ferry officials would allow a private company to take over its operation, charging users a fee. Wi-Fi will improve the ridership experience, said Jim Long, the ferry system’s director of information technology. “They have the option to dial into the Internet and conduct business.”
The Bremerton-Seattle run, with 2.2 million riders a year, was among the runs targeted for the pilot project. Ferry officials had antennas placed in Bremerton and at Waterman Pier at Port Orchard, but without an antenna on Blake Island, passengers would lose six minutes of Internet service, said Long.
“It’s disappointing because it [Bremerton-Seattle] is the longest route,” said Tara Grumm of Bremerton, who was planning to buy a laptop to work on the ferry to avoid staying late at her marketing job on Capitol Hill.
Ferry officials said that route could still get Internet access if the state decides to privatize the service next year.
But any private company would face the same problem the ferry system has securing the rights to put a 25-foot antenna on Blake Island or surrounding areas. Last summer, the Federal Transit Administration awarded Mobilisa Inc., a Port Townsend-based company, $775,000 to test wireless technology on the ferries.
“It’s unique. No one has done it before. That’s why the FTA thought it was such a worthy project to fund,” said Paul Griffo, FTA spokesman.
One challenge is that ferries have a difficult time picking up a consistent signal, especially with interference from vessel traffic or fog. Ferry and Mobilisa officials said they have overcome those problems.
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