More SEPTA stations getting Comcast WiFi

Posted: October 30, 2013

SEPTA and Comcast Corp. will light up about 70 train stations, including the 69th Street, Olney, and Frankford transit hubs, with free WiFi.

The five-year project - to be announced Tuesday at a news conference at the 69th Street terminal - will enable WiFi for hundreds of thousands of SEPTA commuters and expand Comcast's rapidly growing low-cost wireless network.

Under the program, free WiFi will not be available on the trains themselves.

Comcast - the Internet, cable TV, and entertainment giant - now has 300,000 public WiFi hot spots in Philadelphia and 11 other markets, and intends to boost that number to millions.

The free WiFi will allow SEPTA commuters to access e-mail or the Web while they wait for trains, trolleys, and buses, and broadly expand a project that began with the Market East, Suburban, and 30th Street stations in 2010.

Comcast agreed to provide free WiFi as part of a $1.7 million advertising campaign in SEPTA stations, the transit agency's spokeswoman, Jerri Williams, said Monday. SEPTA will benefit with $1 million, she said, and $700,000 will go to the advertising firm that negotiated the deal, Titan Outdoor L.L.C.

When SEPTA commuters access the free WiFi, they will be greeted by an Xfinity screen. There also will be Comcast/Xfinity signage.

Comcast "wanted to bring WiFi to our riders, but we said it had to be free," Williams said. "What is so special is that [it] will be available at 69th Street and the transit hubs."

Some trolley stops also will have free WiFi, as will stations along the Market-Frankford El and Broad Street Subway. There are 200,000 riders a day on the Market-Frankford Line, 125,000 on the Broad Street Line.

The busiest transit hub is Frankford, followed by Olney and 69th Street. SEPTA says it hopes to have the WiFi access available in the stations over the next two years.

As part of its wireless upgrade, the transit agency will launch a staff-developed official SEPTA app for Apple products Tuesday, said Michael Valeski, director of emerging and specialty technologies.

The app will enable iPhone and iPad users to access real-time information on SEPTA trains and schedules. An Android app will be released in 2014, Valeski said.

Tom Nagel, Comcast's senior vice president responsible for wireless strategy, said of SEPTA riders: "We believe a great preponderance of those riders are Comcast customers or will be in the future."

Comcast has one of its largest market shares in the nation in the Philadelphia area.

The company has built its national WiFi network on freely available wireless spectrum. It has installed hot spots in public places, restaurants, and other commercial establishments, and even in homes.

Nagel said the WiFi network gets a lot of traffic in places where people wait, such as quick-lube businesses.

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