Codiac Transpo buses in Moncton will soon block riders from streaming movies and music in an effort to offer more consistent Wi-Fi service to everyone.
The public transit service began offering free Wi-Fi to customers in 2007 as a way to attract more students and working professionals to take the bus.
Senior transit planner Marie-Claire Pierce says since then, there has been a "remarkable" increase in the number of riders with mobile devices.
"In recent months, we've been receiving complaints regarding the inconsistency of the service and, after doing some research, we have found that when one or two users are streaming a movie for example, it affects the level of service for other customers."
Some customers have reported slow internet service, while others couldn't connect at all.
Pierce says Codiac Transpo is already installing devices on buses that will block internet-streaming sites such as Netflix, YouTube and internet radio.
"It was always intended as, 'I want to get on my e-mail before I get to work,' or, 'I'm going to take a peek at my Facebook,' those types of things," she said.
"Not... to sit on the bus and watch a movie — they have to realize it is affecting our other customers."
Pierce expects it will take three to four months before streaming is disabled on all buses.
Codiac struggles to attract new riders, keep costs down
Riverview had been considering improvements to its service in 2016 including more frequent service and park-and-ride lots, but recently put those plans on hold because of budget constraints.
Would-be riders like Dan McLaughlin says he won't consider taking Codiac Transpo until service is much quicker.
"I'll tell you why I'm not using it," he said in a Facebook post.
"Home to work and return by car: 18 minutes; by bike: 35 minutes; by bus: 140 minutes."
Over the summer, high school students in Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe were able to ride Codiac Transpo buses for free in an effort to increase youth ridership numbers.
Pierce says there is a cost to offering Wi-Fi and it was determined that banning streaming was the best approach to maintain some service at a reasonable cost.
She says Codiac Transpo has increased its bandwidth but it still wasn't enough to keep up with the demands of riders who wanted to stream video or audio.
"Every municipality is looking at cost and we can't offer unlimited Wi-Fi," she said.
"We have to control how they're using it."
Last year the Saint John Transit Commission cancelled free wireless internet to riders after costs climbed out of control.
A spokesperson says people were streaming and downloading extensive files and the cost to the city was too high.
Frank McCarey, general manager of the Saint John Transit Commission, says costs for Wi-Fi had tripled from about $1,000 to $3,000 per month.