BART WiFi Provider Sues Agency Claiming Breach of Contract

March 29, 2016 10:00 am · 15 comments

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A company contracted to provide BART passengers with wireless internet is suing the transit agency for breach of contract, claiming BART cost them $7 million when it pulled out of a 20-year deal in 2014.

In the lawsuit filed Friday in Alameda County Superior Court, attorneys for WiFi Rail Inc. argue the Oakland-based company spent millions of dollars developing infrastructure to deliver WiFi on BART trains and in stations but the cables and other equipment was disrupted by BART employees.

BART then pulled out of the contract without adhering to the contract provisions, locking the company out of facilities on BART premises, according to the suit.

WiFi Rail wants to resume the project under the previous contract terms, according to the suit.

BART announced the 20-year contract with WiFi Rail in 2009, saying the company had been testing the service for the previous year in four downtown San Francisco stations and more than 15,000 customers had registered to use it.

At the time, the project was headed into the second of five phases, expanding to more stations, and beginning to charge customers for use when previously it had been free. Eventually, the plan was for there to be a free ad-supported option as well as an option that would cost $6 for two hours of use, $9 a day, $30 a month or $300 a year.

But late in 2014 BART announced it was terminating its agreement with WiFi Rail, which by then had expanded to Oakland, but was available in
less than 5 percent of BART’s fleet.

A copy of the contract provided in the lawsuit indicates that BART had the option to renew the agreement in 2019 and collected license fees from WiFi Rail. Any problems with the contract needed to be worked out via good faith negotiations between the company and BART, but both had the power to terminate the contract given 30 days notice if the other party could not meet the terms of the contract.

But WiFi Rail argues it was BART that could not meet the contract terms, repeatedly being unable to provide support resources necessary for further building out the system. BART never issued a permit to begin work on the third phase after several delays, according to the suit.

BART hired a consultant to test the existing infrastructure in 2014, but the results were poor because, WiFi Rail argues, some of the system infrastructure had been damaged or disabled by BART employees doing unrelated work.

BART then sent a letter terminating the agreement and changed the locks for WiFi Rail facilities on BART property, according to the suit. BART officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit today.

Paul March 29, 2016 at 10:09 AM

typical big brother spying on small businesses. one of these days bart should stand up to these wifi mongers and start using ethernet cables again

idiots everywhere March 29, 2016 at 10:30 AM

I am sure that WiFi Rail was not doing a good job, but BART likely mismanaged the termination and will end up paying millions.

Dumb Idea March 29, 2016 at 10:44 AM

A 20 year contract for technology which evolves at such a rapid rate has to be the stupidest thing BART has ever done.

Jerk March 29, 2016 at 11:12 AM

The wifi should have been hooked up to the BART parking lot security cameras so people can check on their cars via smartphone or internet.
Since BART PD isn’t able to do anything.

jtkatec March 29, 2016 at 11:21 AM

Jerk, good idea

Mary Fouts March 29, 2016 at 11:23 AM

@Dumb Idea – My thoughts exactly. Not only the rapid technology evolution you mention, but what are the chances this WiFi company will be around for 20 years?

Disgruntled March 29, 2016 at 11:38 AM

WiFi on BART has never worked very well.

Silva March 29, 2016 at 11:40 AM

Yeah, it was a dumb idea, but certainly not the stupidest thing BART has ever done.

Hans March 29, 2016 at 11:50 AM

With cell phones, who would really pay to use the internet on Bart anyway? I’ll just use my data if it’s that important. What another waste of money.

BirdCrap March 29, 2016 at 12:47 PM

I am outraged that a company would take such a wonderful and respectful organization like BART to court over breach of contract (sarcasm intended)

$30 per month for low grade wifi service is hilarious..for 1-2 hours of commute time per day. No thanks.

The first mistake that the wifi rail service group made was to try and lock themselves into a contract with a shady organization like BART. Should have known better.

Jayster March 29, 2016 at 1:20 PM

Whatever happens.. the expenses will be passed on to the BART riders. Once again… the public loses regardless of outcome…

Thunderdome March 29, 2016 at 1:21 PM

The sad truth is that verizon works from Concord to downtown SF better than the wifi ever worked. There are a couple of small gaps that after a while you learn to anticipate….

99 years March 29, 2016 at 2:04 PM

I have Verizon. With LG tablet no gaps. Samsung Galaxy S5, yes a couple like Orinda tunnel.

Bacon March 29, 2016 at 4:44 PM

I hope Bart loses the court case.

Great excuse to get some new Board Members in place. Not that it will do much good here in the Peoples Democracy of Kalifornia (or whatever lie they are using these days).

Elwood March 29, 2016 at 5:50 PM

Good old BART!

They could screw up a one car funeral.

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