By now, any BC Ferries passenger knows the onboard free Wi-Fi is pretty much a joke, as it’s slow as molasses and can never keep up with demand.
Now, according to CTV News, BC Ferries says they are investigating numerous options to speed up onboard Wi-Fi, including a satellite system seen on airlines. However, these faster solutions will come at a cost.
“Five, ten years ago, people weren’t carrying as many devices as they are now,” said BC Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall to CTV News Vancouver Island. “You see a customer come onboard now they might have an iPad as well as a phone, so people are trying to use our system with multiple devices and we just don’t have the bandwidth for it.”
The company says a two-tier Wi-Fi system would most likely result, meaning free slower Wi-Fi would remain, but a paid option would surface for streaming Internet. Currently, BC Ferries Wi-Fi does not allow streaming video from apps or websites, as data is restricted, meaning YouTube and Netflix are out of the question.
Here’s how the company explains the current Wi-Fi solution, which they developed in-house:
Our network for internet connectivity is one that BC Ferries has developed because shore-based solutions from traditional Wi-Fi internet providers will not work over water. BC Ferries has built its own network, using its terminals as the base for internet connectivity, and has installed ship-to-shore radios at our terminals and on private property in locations throughout our major routes. From these locations, the signal is then transferred to access points onboard our ships, making Wi-Fi accessible for customers. However, ship movement, the movement of other vessels, as well as the distance to shore can all have an impact on the signal strength and cause issues in connectivity.
BC Ferries didn’t comment on how much a paid Wi-Fi solution would cost or when it would be implemented, other than to say it’s currently in talks with various service providers.
It would be great if BC Ferries considered bundling faster, streaming Wi-Fi for those in the Seawest Lounge and those in the Pacific Buffet. I wonder at what price point people would be willing to pay to stay occupied for 1.5 hours. Ferry rides are when offline Netflix downloads can be your best friend, as long as you remember to set yourself up at home.