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Bill Bennett

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Auckland Transport’s stingy Wi-Fi

Two cheers for Auckland Transport. It plans to install Wi-Fi at train stations, bus terminals and ferry wharves.

Auckland’s public transport Wi-Fi is likely to be technically robust. It uses the same technology already proven in Telecom NZ’s nationwide Wi-Fi network.

Sadly the scheme as described in the gushing propaganda is half-baked and mean-minded.

You need an Auckland Transport Hop Card to get the full 1GB a day of data. Non-card holders only get ten minutes online.

That’s a slap in the face to out-of-town visitors who will leave Auckland with memories of petty, penny-pinching.

Overseas visitors often complain about the lack of free Wi-Fi in New Zealand compared with cities elsewhere.

Why does Auckland Transport offer Wi-Fi?

Could it be Auckland Transport’s aim is to use Wi-Fi as a Hop Card lure?

That doesn’t make sense. Either Hop cards stand on their own merits, or they don’t. Throwing in free data is not enough of a draw to undecided passengers.

On one level it makes sense to ration the service. Unmetered free Wi-Fi could undermine commercial operations and cause crowds to form in busy transport hubs.

If cost is an issue, then cut the 1GB daily allowance. It’s generous — movie downloads aside, it’s hard for a mobile device to chew through that much data while waiting for or travelling on public transport.

There are two other stingy gotchas. First, your Hop Card has to be in credit to use the service. What is Auckland Transport’s motivation for this restriction?

More restrictive and even harder to understand is a rule the Hop Card has to have been used in the last five days, not including the day in question. In other words, you have to be a frequent public transport passenger to use the service.

If the aim is to encourage people to use public transport, and what possible other purpose could this rule serve, then it’s potentially uneconomic as it will potentially encourage meaningless journeys by people wanting Wi-Fi access.

It’s also counterproductive in a more subtle way. Infrequent travellers might be tempted to choose rail or ferry over a car if it means they could make better use of their time — say working on a tablet during the journey. The last five-day requirement effectively rules out this option.

 

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