Parsons won the contract to put permanent Wi-Fi service on board the largest ferry system in North America: Washington State Ferries riders represent half the passenger trips in the U.S., and are rivaled closely by British Columbia's ferry operations. They've had Wi-Fi on most popular ferry routes in a prolonged prototype since late 2004, and awarded the contract more than a year after it was originally expected to be put out for bid. Parsons won the service, and its Opti-Fi division has just announced pricing.
They'll charge airport-like rates of $3 for 15 minutes (25 cents thereafter), $7 per 24 hour period, and $30 per month. The WSF email that announces these charges, also notes that free service will switch to paid on Nov. 20. They also point out that Opti-Fi's roaming arrangements provide no-fee access to their partners. The email inaccurately states that iPass customers will pay no additional charge; iPass customers pay for each data session, in fact, but it's at a negotiated rate. T-Mobile and Sprint Wi-Fi users will find their service included. Opti-Fi also lists Boingo Wireless on their partners page; Boingo charges just $22 for unlimited North American roaming. Update: Opti-Fi doesn't include the ferries in their Boingo roaming, according to Boingo Wireless.
The first routes will be the heaviest trafficked: Seattle to Bainbridge Island, and Edmonds to Kingston. These two routes carry about half the passengers, and a large subset of the cars. These two routes take about a half an hour to cross, but car waiting times can run from 30 minutes to 4 hours depending on time of day and complicating factors. Later, Mukilteo to Clinton (a bit north of Seattle over to Whidbey Island) will be added, which comprises another large chunk of passengers and cars; andh Seattle to Bremerton, where the naval shipyard is located, and an increasing number of commuters live in order to work in Seattle and yet afford a house.
WSF is promising some expansions of their quite nice prototyped service. They'll offer a persistent connection, so that you won't need to login again regardless of where you start to stop using the service--some people will surely connect in the terminal, then again on board, and perhaps on arrival. During the test period, the main deck of boats, and car and passenger waiting areas had Wi-Fi; now, car decks, sun decks, holding areas, and ramps will also have coverage. They also promise higher bandwidth than during the two-plus-year test.
This is an accidental boost for T-Mobile in our area, because with the addition of a trial cell/Wi-Fi voice package starting in Seattle, you can couple a $40 or higher voice plan, a $30 per month unlimited GPRS/EDGE/Wi-Fi plan, and $20 per month unlimited voice-over-Wi-Fi together--including the entire ferry system. For frequent ferry riders, this is probably reason enough to switch voice plans. (Note that T-Mobile will allow voice-over-Wi-Fi only at its own managed locations; but you could use Skype while on the ferries.)