For anyone that lives in (or has visited) the San Francisco Bay Area, you’re most likely very familiar with the Bay Area Rapid Transit or BART. The commuter rail system covers a total of 104 miles, has 44 stations, and weekday ridership over 420,000.
With so many people using BART on a daily basis, Wi-Fi access is a much-welcomed perk for riders. BART obviously agreed and in 2009 signed a 20-year contract with WiFi Rail to eventually provide Internet service to its entire 669-car fleet. Under the contract, WiFi Rail agreed to pay for the infrastructure and all costs involved in the getting the service up and running.
WiFi Rail was eventually supposed to see its return on investment, which was pegged at $100,000 per mile back in 2012, once the system was fully established. At that point, WiFi Rail would begin charging customers instead of letting them use the service free of charge (as has been the case for the past few years).
It appears that WiFi Rail may never get a chance to recoup its investment; at least not without a lawsuit. BART this week canceled its contract with Wi-Fi Rail citing numerous issues with the company’s financing and rollout of the service. It also doesn’t help that service has been spotty at best and hasn’t met the rollout schedule outlined by Wi-Fi Rail.
The final two phases of the WiFi Rail network on BART was supposed to be completed by the end of this year, but the company has run into roadblock after roadblock. As a result, WiFi Rail has only been installed on fewer than 5 percent of BART’s fleet — that means just 55 train cars are equipped with Wi-Fi.
“We tried to negotiate with them over a variety of issues, but they canceled the agreement today for reasons that are not just or valid,” said WiFi Rail CEO Cooper Lee.
Lee went on to add that BART hadn’t been in contact to let them know of service issues/disruptions and that the 20-year contract was canceled “with no just cause.” WiFi Rail appears to be prepared to do everything in its power to make sure that BART either fulfills its contract or pays up – poor Internet service be damned.
“BART can’t just break the law all willy-nilly,” Lee added. “If they do then they’ll have bigger problems than whether they have Wi-Fi on the trains.”
Those sound like fightin’ words to us.