Starting Monday, passengers on seven Amtrak routes to and from Chicago can connect their laptops and mobile devices to free onboard Wi-Fi.
The rail agency hopes the service, known as AmtrakConnect, will be a boon to business passengers and give Amtrak an edge over other transportation providers, a statement from the agency said.
Illinois routes with the new service include the Lincoln Service to Springfield and St. Louis; the Illini Saluki Service to Champaign and Carbondale; and the Illinois Zephyr/Carl Sandburg line to Galesburg and Quincy, according to Amtrak.
Three routes from Chicago to Michigan — the Wolverine Service, Blue Water and Pere Marquette lines — and the Chicago-to-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service, will also offer free Wi-Fi.
“Amtrak trains in Illinois are faster, thanks to our joint commitment to high speed rail,” Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement announcing the service. “Now, Wi-Fi access on those same trains will make each trip more productive and enjoyable.”
The seven routes through Chicago carried more than 3 million passengers last year, according to ridership data.
AmtrakConnect is already available on Amtrak trains on the East and West coasts, and is a popular option—about 30 percent to 50 percent of passengers on any given train use it, the statement said.
The mobile Wi-Fi network uses bandwidth provided by cellular carriers with towers near Amtrak’s routes, and uses 4G networks where possible, Amtrak said.
There are some drawbacks: Amtrak’s Wi-Fi blocks access to data-heavy streaming video and music; limits file downloads to 10MB; and restricts access to websites with objectionable content.
The rail agency says the restrictions prevent heavy data users from slowing connections speeds for other passengers. Amtrak recommends passengers instead download large files before boarding,
Because AmtrakConnect does not require a secure pass code or login, it is not inherently secure and communications could be intercepted, according to Amtrak’s website. Passengers are responsible for securing their own data and devices.