We missed this item last week, but it seems that the MTA has put out an RFP for Wi-Fi service on LIRR and MetroNorth trains and at stations. You can download the PDF (3mb) or view it inline.
Glenn Fleishman of Wi-Fi Net News has a great writeup about this RFP, which leaves a lot to be desired:
The MTA wants a service provider who would operate a network to bear all the expense of installation and operation (including railroad labor costs for same), provide 24×7 customer support, and uninterrupted service.
But the proposal is pretty muddled. While digital advertising (changeable signs on board trains and at stations) should be part of a bidder’s thinking to minimize the cost in installing such systems, there’s no spec for those systems. A bidder can build a bid partly around offering such services. The MTA also likes bids in which the authority shares in revenue.
I don’t see how this could fly. No sensible firm would propose taking on all this expense without any assurance of revenue beyond the public Wi-Fi side of the system. Despite the large number of passengers, many of those most likely to pay already have 3G service on smartphones or through laptop cards. There’s no operational services component, and that should be the baseline for any new rail RFP of the last five years.