The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is seeking a private telecommunication or transportation firm to bring Internet access to Metro-North and Long Island Railroad trains and stations and manage the service.

The authority issued a request for proposals last week seeking a company to outfit trains and rail lines to provide wireless Web access aboard the two services, MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said.

Proposals are due May 17.

"It is another way for us to improve the experience of our riders and make train travel more attractive," Donovan said.

Under the terms of the request for proposal, an interested firm would assume the cost of installing and maintaining the Wi-Fi technology.

Donovan declined to comment about the MTA's position on charging fees for on-board Internet service.

Wireless access will help riders make more productive use of their commuting time, creating an additional incentive to use mass transit, said Darienite Jim Cameron, who is the Chairman of Connecticut Rail Commuter Council.

Cameron said he believes charging a fee would be fair, preferably on a sliding scale that reflects actual use, rather than a flat fee.

"Given the amount of time passengers spend each day on the train if they could use that time answering e-mail or working they will essentially be on the clock," he said. "As long as the service is affordable and the bandwidth is such that people can use it efficiently, it will be just another reason for people to commute by train."

Since 2008, Cablevision Systems Corp. has maintained a network offering wireless Web coverage from Greenwich to Milford, including parking lots and platforms from Greenwich to Milford and north to Redding on the Danbury branch. That service is available only to Cablevision subscribers.

Because of sparse use, Stamford in 2008 discontinued free Wi-Fi service in Columbus Park, Latham Park on Bedford Street and Veterans Park near the Stamford Town Center.

Drew Todd, a Norwalk commuter and a member of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, said he questioned the potential interest in paying for the service, given the ever wider ability to use air cards and other devices to access wireless Internet service.

"I just don't think it will be cost-effective for them to do it," Todd said. "If a private firm wants to take on all the cost of introducing it and they can do it without any other technical issues, it isn't a bad idea."