Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has questioned why the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) can’t continue a Wi-Fi pilot project at six Metro stations: Metro Center, Gallery Place, Judiciary Square, Union Station, Archives, and L’Enfant Plaza.
The service, which was announced August 29, is part of the General Manager’s Customer Accountability Report (CARe) initiatives, said Metro in a press release.
It also stated the service will be available for 45 days. After which it will be suspended while the pilot program is evaluated.
“While I am a strong proponent of Wi-Fi, at least one aspect of the pilot does raise some concern,” O’Rielly said in a letter to Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld released on Thursday.
“Specifically, it is my understanding that the project will last 45 days and then be suspended pending evaluation. I am at a loss as to why these critical communications features would be disabled at a set date,” he queried.
Last year, federal officials tried to speed up efforts to bring wireless service into the subway tunnels, saying it was a “glaring safety problem” that passengers had no means of calling 911 in the event of an emergency on a train.
This was even more pertinent considering the January 2015 Yellow Line smoke incident at L’Enfant Plaza.
“Given the overall questionable state of communications capabilities within the entire system, it seems counterintuitive to cease operations of an additional mechanism that the public can use to reach emergency personnel when warranted,” added O’Rielly.