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BC Ferries cancels Wi-Fi aboard three routes

Route 3 will no longer have Wi-Fi; access remains at terminals
Ferries at Langdale
The Queen of Coquitlam and Queen of Surrey at the Langdale ferry terminal on June 26, 2021.

After more than a decade, BC Ferries quietly pulled the plug on wireless network service aboard three routes, as of July 5 this year.

The routes between Horseshoe Bay and Langdale, Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay, and Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay will no longer have Wi-Fi, according to an update on BC Ferries’ website. 

“Extensive research and analysis of various technology solutions has shown it is not possible to improve the Wi-Fi service on our ferries to the level expected by users and we continually receive complaints about the quality and reliability of the service,” the website states.

Since Wi-Fi was introduced in 2010, the company says the number of customers using the service has “increased substantially” from around 40 to 50 users to more than 900, in turn affecting the reliability of the wireless internet. The ship-to-shore network uses wireless network radios, which are required to be upgraded and certified under new radio frequency regulations that BC Ferries said will reduce the quality of onboard Wi-Fi. The devices would reduce the amount of power the company can apply to the radios, making them unable to cover the previous distance.

“Installing the new devices also has a high cost, and we would need to pass these costs on to our customers,” the website states.

Although BC Ferries consulted service providers, no solutions to improve the system were found. Wi-Fi will still be available at the terminals.

“We understand this is a change for customers. Many of our routes have cellular phone coverage, enabling travellers to use their data plans to access digital services.”

The news came when the company announced it is receiving $1.5 million in grant funding to introduce free Wi-Fi at 14 terminals. The money comes from the Ministry of Citizen’s Services’ Connecting British Columbia program, and the service will cover the terminals, public lounges, vehicle holding compounds and may include parking lots.

Seven terminals – including Horseshoe Bay, Langdale and Saltery Bay – already have Wi-Fi service.