Wi-Fi provider’s customer service claims T failed to pay its bills — but did they?

Keith from Framingham sought Wi-Fi service on the Worcester/Framingham commuter rail line. (Patricia Harris for The Boston Globe)
Keith from Framingham sought Wi-Fi service on the Worcester/Framingham commuter rail line. (Patricia Harris for The Boston Globe)

You know when you’re trying to treat someone to a fancy dinner, but the waitress says your credit card is declined, even though you know you paid your last bill?

Yeah, that totally just happened to the T.

I got an interesting e-mail last week from Keith in Framingham, who was riding the commuter rail home when he discovered — shock! — the wireless Internet wasn’t working.

The Internet landing page that popped up on his laptop screen directed him to call 888-MBTAWIFI for help, which transferred him to a company called Waav. The customer service rep asked what train system and car number he was riding.


“I was put on hold for a minute,’’ Keith wrote, “and then the rep came back and apologized to me, stating that the MBTA has not paid their bill in over six months and as a result, he was unable to provide any support to me.’’


Waav began contracting with the T in 2008, according to a press release on the company’s website — they’ve also provided Wi-Fi for Bolt and Greyhound buses, too. I called the same customer service number, asking about broken wireless on a commuter rail train.

The rep told me the same thing that Keith heard — except this time, he said the T had not paid the bill since 2011.

“There was a balance due that was very significant when we ceased providing support,’’ the rep said. You should call the T about it, he advised.

So I did. And Kelly Smith, a spokeswoman for the MBTA, made a few calls, and came back with a response: They’re wrong.

Waav, she explained, is a former contractor with the MBTA. For the past several years, the T has used AT&T — and, as the Globe reported earlier this year, they’re seeking other vendors who would provide the service at no cost.


MBTA information technology staffers are working to change the landing page that Wi-Fi users are directed to when they log on, she said.

And how about that bill, the one that was “very significant’’?

No way, Smith said.

“The MBTA does not have any outstanding bills with this company,’’ she said.

Controversy! Dispute! Intriguing, I thought.

But when I called up Waav management and got an e-mail back from the company’s president, Brian J. Smith, his response wasn’t what I expected: A complete about-face.

“First, I would like to apologize on behalf of any person at WAAV (support or otherwise) for saying anything about any customer, past or present,’’ Brian Smith wrote.

“I can emphatically say that the information given by the MBTA is correct,’’ he continued. “There are no outstanding unpaid invoices, and the fact that they have not had a contract to continue supporting the system for quite some time is true.’’

Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Keith’s Wi-Fi service was broken.

So who should he have called? Commuter rail passengers having problems with their Wi-Fi are supposed to contact the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company: (617) 222-3200, or http://t.co/SHPArEQw.

Jump To Comments

Get the latest breaking news sent directly to your phone. Download our free app.