ScotRail blocks wifi users who hog bandwidth

Keith Brown, left, and Steve Montgomery announced a wifi scheme on trains in December. Picture: Esme Allen
Keith Brown, left, and Steve Montgomery announced a wifi scheme on trains in December. Picture: Esme Allen
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Train travellers will be stopped from watching video on most websites under restrictions on the free ScotRail wifi service, in a move which will see sites like YouTube, Instagram and Dropbox blocked.

Users will also be prevented from watching videos on bandwidth heavy sites such as BBC News and the official English Premier League page, although articles can be read as normal.

The block is aimed at stopping the free-acess network being overloaded with web traffic, and ScotRail said it was needed to avoid unfairly limiting other passengers’ ability to use the system.

The decision comes with more than 130,000 unique users logging on to the operator’s wifi during August – the first time the free service has hit six figures in a single month.

Mobile wifi has now been rolled out to 41 ScotRail express trains. Trains have been fitted at a rate of six or seven a month, with a further 18 anticipated by December.

The service has been launched on the back of funding from the Scottish Government, with £2 million allocated to help fund free wifi on the private company’s express fleet by the end of 2013.

ScotRail confirmed customers would still be able to upload pictures to Facebook and Twitter using the on-train wifi system.

Managing director Steve Montgomery said: “We’re determined to keep building upon this success and are using new software to help share bandwidth more fairly, giving users faster, more
reliable connectivity.”

The company has suggested the wifi was only intended to “enable web browsing, checking e-mails or connecting to Facebook or Twitter” rather than working while travelling.

A passenger’s average wifi session lasts more than 30 minutes, ScotRail said.

Transport Minister Keith Brown has billed the free wifi rollout as a major plus for visitors attending next year’s 
Commonwealth Games.

A Transport Scotland spokesman defended the blocking of some websites and video, saying: “First ScotRail has a fair use policy that aims to provide enough bandwidth for everyone.

“If fellow travellers access sites that are bandwidth heavy, this can reduce the availability for everyone else.

“Free wifi will enable web browsing, checking e-mails, or connecting to Facebook or Twitter. This is especially important as the number of travellers using the wifi service continues to grow.”


UNLIKE ScotRail, Lothian Buses has not had to block access to certain websites. The city’s main bus company has blacklisted pornography and software updates, but allows Instagram, YouTube and MySpace. Edinburgh Airport has blocked access to video streaming websites such as Netflix and the BBC iPlayer.