Sunday, September 12, 2010

DPI/QoS Deployments (26): Amtrak Blocks Video Streaming and Large Downloads, Filters Sites

On March 2010 Amtrak, a US train company, launched AmtrakConnect, a Wi-Fi service on its "Northeast Corridor" (see map).

See "AMTRAK LAUNCHES Wi-Fi ® SERVICE AmtrakConnectSM now available on Acela Express trains and in major Northeast Corridor stations" - here.

Nevertheless, since the service is based on mobile access, and is subject to technical challenges, Amtrak has a number of restrictions on usage (see "AmtrakConnect Wi-Fi" - here):

"Are there any restrictions?

Onboard Acela Express, AmtrakConnect blocks access to streaming video and restricts file downloads larger than 10 MB in order to provide all of our passengers with the best possible network experience. These restrictions do not apply to in-station Wi-Fi.

Why are you blocking specific websites?

Amtrak follows similar guidelines shared by many companies who offer Wi-Fi in a public space, in that we will block content deemed to be inappropriate for public viewing. If you have encountered a website which you feel has been incorrectly blocked by our automatic filter, let us know. We can honor appropriate requests to unblock specific sites."

On June, Nate Anderson from Ars Technica reported that Amtrak will exand the serivce to the entire network - (see "Amtrak to take free onboard WiFi nationwide" - here) and provided some more technical details:

"Each train has a central system housed in a ‘brain car’ comprising up to eight data modems using all four major US cellular carriers; Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. .. The bottleneck in any train-bound system will always be the backhaul, so AmtrakConnect uses a quality-of-service system that segregates passenger traffic from on-board system traffic, and uses content filtering to manage bandwidth on a per user basis and block certain material including streaming video. The on-train system is augmented by multi-megabit trackside and in-station wireless broadband that offloads traffic from the cellular connections to platform-based infrastructure when a train is at the station."

Trains, buses, planes - all could use the same architecture, regardless of the access technology (mobile, satellite).

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