I think a good majority of crew would want access to the internet. Some people prefer to be disconnected and not deal with outside stuff…but I’m thinking most crew would find internet access good for any number of reasons. Access to VOIP phone service and emails would be appreciated by many. Access to social media and news would be nice too. There are all sorts of streaming entertainment options as well music, movies, tv…etc.
What might the downside be for the owners?
Guys using the wifi on their phones and laptops instead of doing the job they are being paid to do. You know… the guy supposed to be doing something on deck… and you find him checking his twitter or whatever on his phone. The company might not be interested in paying to put a distraction onboard.
Another issue can be security of the system… but a good IT firewall should be able to prevent unauthorized access. If it is a company system, I can also imagine they would restrict some content etc… Not sure if they could restrict data activity to prevent a user from using all the bandwith downloading movies or whatever.
Streaming can be a real bandwidth hog, so most internet crew firewalls will likely be set to block that, though that is the owners’ choice at the end of the day. A better option is to download once and distribute many times on board. So the ship side server can be configured to download -say- the BBC World News daily video clip, and a number of other relevant compressed videos.
Yes, owners usually ask us to restrict access to certain obvious sites. No porn while at work, amongst other things. Just like in office settings.
Individual phone access is indeed a problem. Both from the safety standpoint of course but again the bandwidth standpoint. We’ve seen ships where half the crew bandwidth goes to updating phones and tablets. Kind of a waste of expensive airtime to update your Angry Birds to the latest version. Updates can be controlled via firewall and you only get to update when the ship is connected to wifi (or even 4G if you choose) to the shore. It’s easy to have auto fall back systems where you connect via wifi (everything is then allowed, or almost), then fall-back to 4G (a little more restrictive), 3g (restrictive), vSat (normal configuration for crew access) and Fbb if you lose the vSat (rare, but at that point all bandwidth goes to business only).
The safety aspect is already there anyways: We’ve all brought our laptops to the bridge or engine room, and we could realistically play Call of Duty whilst on watch. Or go old style and bring a book. A phone/tablet is just another distraction but not widely different in my opinion.
But you are right, we need to address that with owners’ as we’re pitching systems to them. The solution might be simple anyways: Ships are big faraday cages by design, so limiting wifi signal happens naturally, and by simple installation we could restrict wifi signals to reach only the living quarters in the accommodation block, but not reach the bridge or ECR?
And for those who want to disconnect, nothing is forcing them to use the access… There is an “off” button on all our gadgets, though I will admit to being the first to not use it often enough. Addictive little things they are!