Free Wi-Fi could soon become a permanent feature on certain USC buses. USC Transit has begun testing the service on three of its buses on the Union Station route and said they plan to add Wi-Fi to more buses.
Michelle Garcia, the associate director of USC Transit, said plans took off in a November 2011 meeting with Verizon Wireless.
Once Transit got assurance from Verizon that wireless Internet service was possible, they began the testing phase and installed the Wi-Fi on three Union Station buses, Garcia said.
Now, Garcia said, “it’s just not a matter of testing the service, but rather the whole package.”
Factors such as the reliability of the Internet connection, and the popularity of the service will be most important in determining the scope of the program.
“We’ve got to see how many people are using it, if it is working for them, if there are any service problems that make it not very useful,” Garcia said. “For instance, if there’s a spot that interrupts the Wi-Fi, it might not be worth it for somebody on a 20-minute bus route.”
The cost of the Wi-Fi will also be under scrutiny in the testing phase. According to Garcia, USC Transit is still exploring its options.
“We are not necessarily in a contract with Verizon at this point, so we could change vendors down the line if someone else has a better service option for us,” Garcia said. “We need to know if people are streaming videos on the trip because that helps us choose the kind of Wi-Fi.”
If testing goes well, however, Garcia said students could see Wi-Fi on more than just Union Station buses.
“It’s probably a couple months until we finalize the service, but then we will have to make a decision about putting Wi-Fi on shorter routes, like Route A and B,” Garcia said. “We need to see how many people would use it on a 10-minute ride to their apartment.”
Students said they would support free Wi-Fi, whether on only a few buses or on all USC buses.
“I take the bus to Union Station at least two times a semester and Wi-Fi would make it a lot better,” Sean Lawlor, a junior majoring in biochemistry, said. “I usually listen to music the whole way, but it would be nice to be able to use my laptop.”
As well as making the ride more enjoyable, students said they would appreciate being able to complete homework on their commute.
“It sounds like a really good idea because students could do their work and be productive while they are just sitting on the bus,” said Dorna Moini, a graduate student studying law. “I know I would use it.”