This story is a few months old, but since I visited Blacksburg last week, I learned about it now. The facts:
The New River Valley will soon be more connected than ever as Blacksburg Transit goes wireless with a pilot program offering Internet service aboard select buses.
The new service, created as the result of a partnership between Citizens Telephone Cooperative, based in Floyd, and Blacksburg Transit, has already begun wireless Internet service aboard a single bus, but plans are in the works to add six more by the end of May. “We’re still testing, but we should have them all done by the end of the month,” said Tim Witten, manager of BT Access.
“We’re doing it as a pilot program. We’re deploying this to see how it works, and hope it would be a really attractive part of our service, and serve as an example to the rest of Virginia,” Witten said.
That’s fancy enough, but I don’t imagine students clamored for this service. Although my experience is eight-plus years old, I’m confident that local travel patterns among Virginia Tech students haven’t changed that much. Most users aren’t on the bus long enough to scan for the wireless network and connect, much less to check the status of their fantasy football. Those students who are on the bus long enough and want to download the latest Paris Hilton song should pay for it themselves.
The program is being paid for by a series of grants from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and the federal government, thus restricting the number of buses that will receive wireless service.
Because it’s some tech nerd’s vision of cool does not mean it’s a public good. Should I also point out that Blacksburg Transit does not intend to test the program on specific routes? That the routes could change daily? I’m sure that will inspire riders to bring their laptops on a regular basis. Hopefully this flawed premise will help the program fail. As long as it’s in place, when the Hokies take the field and the leaves change colors this fall, you should stop by Blacksburg and surf the free wireless you’re providing.
(General hat tip to Kip for the basic structure of this post.)