Streaming films to pass the time on a long commute – or during long delays – may still be a pipe dream in the UK.
The Government promised that train operators bidding on franchises would have to include free Wi-Fi as part of the deal.
But it’s been revealed that they would only have to offer a minimum services, 1Mps, which allowed for basic browsing but not, say, YouTube clips.
The Government seeded the Wi-Fi programme with £50million to chivvy along groups, including Southeastern, so free Wi-Fi would be available as early as next year.
Digital policy minister Matt Hancock said some train operators were already exceeding the threshold, which would be increased by 25% each year, but he conceded that the minimum standard would only allow for basic social media activity.
In February 2015, the then Prime Minister David Cameron promised the scheme saying it was “vital for business and individuals to be able to do their work”.
Labour has responded to the news with a move to amend the Digital Economy Bill, which will be debated next week. The party’s digital economy spokeswoman Louise Haigh said: “A third of the major rail franchises still do not provide free Wi-Fi, and the standard specification will be very slow, even for some basic activity such as downloading an email with an attachment.
“Given the huge profits made by the private train companies, the government should be pushing them to go further, faster.”
Christian Roth, MD for South West Trains , said: “Over half of our train services now offer completely free Wi-Fi. Tens of thousands of passengers enjoy the greater connectivity which will make it easier to work, catch up with the latest news or keep in touch with friends.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We are investing record amounts in our railways to improve journeys and expect that 90% of all trains will have access to Wi-Fi by the end of 2018, with virtually 100% by 2020.”