Wi-Fi: right or privilege?

Wi-Fi: right or privilege?Hello there. I’ve mentioned a few times recently that I’m over in sunny Australia, and I’ve still got a few days left till I return to the bleak winter of the UK. I’m actually kinda looking forward to it, in a perverse way. Bring on the mince pies and snow.

Anyhows, travelling about and trying to work for several hours a day over Wi-Fi can be trickier than it sounds. Much trickier. Ready for one of my patented rants? You know you love it really.

First of all, I’ve noticed that several - perhaps it'd even be fair to say most - international airports don’t have free Wi-Fi. Is that not pretty ridiculous in this day and age? We can launch giant metal tubes into the sky with hundreds of passengers, but a decent free Wi-Fi service in the terminal is out of the question.

I found myself using a couple of decidedly dodgy free Wi-Fi networks in Dubai and Singapore airports, and soon afterwards my email account was hacked. Coincidence? Maybe I’m just paranoid after watching a documentary about the perils of free public Wi-Fi. Maybe.

I’ve noticed too that some companies adopt different policies in different countries. Take McDonald’s, for example. Back in the UK, McDonald’s has the Cloud network, which is handy if you happen to be with O2, but a bit of a pain otherwise.

Over here in Kangarooland, McDonald’s was my friggin’ saviour during my last visit. I quite often found myself screaming through the middle of nowhere in our campervan, but I knew that if I could just find a town with a few hundred people in it, invariably there’d be a McDonald’s with free Wi-Fi.

Better still, you could often pick up the Wi-Fi outside the “restaurant”, so there was no obligation to buy anything. Actually, I’m hanging my head in shame at that; rest assured, I bought a hell of a lot of double cheeseburgers.

Starbucks, however; now there’s a strange one. Starbucks expects me to pay for Wi-Fi. Admittedly my experience of running an international coffee franchise is fairly limited, but would it not make sense to woo customers in with free Wi-Fi so that they hang around and buy several coffees and maybe even a slice of carrot cake?

Personally, I’d quite gladly chill in Starbucks all day with my laptop, but I’d rather pay for coffee and cake than pay for Wi-Fi. Pay for Wi-Fi? Are you out of your freakin’ mind?

The flip side of the coin is the State Library of Victoria, which offers free Wi-Fi for all. Not just for students, you understand; any old Joe can walk in off the street and use the Wi-Fi, so long as he keeps his gob shut while he does so.

Better still, they have computers for use too. Free internet for all. That’s the way it should be, I reckon.

Things go a little mental when you start looking at accommodation, and it’s the same the world over. I’m currently staying in a fairly classy backpackers’ place, and I get 500MB for two days. That’s more than enough. If you go over that, you’re probably downloading stuff illegally. Tut tut.

It's probably fair to say that most of the low-end/modest places I've stayed recently have included some sort of free internet slash Wi-Fi.

At the other end of the scale, you’ve got hotels like the Hilton asking for more money to go online. What the furg is that all about? So you pay more money up front for supposedly four or five star facilities, but you have pay on top of that for Wi-Fi? Get outta here, you greedy bastions.

I guess these five star hotels are largely used by business people where it’s paid for by the company, or big fat rich people who poo money. But it’s a strange state of affairs, I say. Imagine you had to pay extra to use the pool or the lifts or watch TV. It’s madness, I tell you, and all because Wi-Fi is relatively new.

Right, I should probably stop ranting and go to sleep. If you disagree, make use of the Comments section and berate me to your heart's content.

Night night.

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9 comments

CTPAHHIK  Nov. 16, 2011 at 13:42

There is no such thing as free WiFi in UK (or any developed country). Let me repeat that "There is no such things as free WiFi" and never will be. You can thank Ofcom or whatever regulatory body that is responsible for creating stupid laws pertaining to information sharing.
If you run free WiFi in UK you either get a fine or you end up in jail. If you are a business once again either a fine or getting shut down. Why? Simple, you are responsible for everything that happens on your network. If anyone wants to do something illegal or unethical they would obviously do it over free WiFi and you (as the owner) will get blamed.
There is no other option, but to hire a third party to setup secure WiFi network for you. This will not be free. I would charge around £300 - 500 a month per restaurant to run it. I won't even get into details what kind of bill an airport would get. Reasoning behind this price is due to the fact that someone has to be physically present for repairs when WiFi is not working. As more than two hours of downtime in not acceptable tech support response has to be prompt and very expensive.

I agree with the fact that Hotels should be providing free WiFi as you can easily check personal identity using room number and last name. It's much more difficult in the airport. The simple fact that cafe or restaurant has a WiFi should already be considered as a miracle as it's very expensive for the owner. Question of exorbitant credit card fees charged for WiFi use (instead of say 50p per hour) has to do with the fact that credit card transactions on small scale are extremely expensive and only big places would be able to afford them (or they are not included in the bill).

CTPAHHIK  Nov. 16, 2011 at 13:49

Airports cannot afford free WiFi due to a huge scale of investment it would require. Multiple installation of WiFi routers, cables everywhere, software maintenance, hardware maintenance, etc. All those expenses would be added to your flight ticket and I'm sure many people would not be very happy.

Lewis, which email did you get hacked into? Gmail, Hotmail? Work email (fire your IT immediately)?

JoeBear  Nov. 16, 2011 at 16:04

During a trip to New York last year I was pretty pleased to find that the entire city is covered with free Wi-Fi Networks. Starbucks, McDonalds, even most small independent cafes. They only required you accept their terms and conditions on the initial start up page - this was fantastic for staying in touch (Whatsapp, Skype, Facebook etc). I imagine there was a bulit in time/data limit associated with your devices MAC address but I never encountered it.

I think the problem in the UK is that free WiFi isn't expected by many people - and is therefore seen as another potential money spinner (After a few days in New York I found myself checking the wifi before we sat down in a cafe/restaurant - if it wasnt there then we'd go somewhere else). Until one of the major franchises starts offering wifi for free on all its premisis then I think we're out of look for widespread free wifi in the UK.

Stelph  Nov. 16, 2011 at 16:25

As a side note Lewis almost all the "expensive" hotels I have stayed with in the USA (with work) charge not only for wifi, bu also the gym and swimming pool facilities, go figure....

Personally I dont think free wifi should be around as there are always people who abuse such sevices, what should be allowed however is a wifi service that customers can use, however to make sure that it is customers who using i would say that the staff should issue "codes" whenever a sale is made (i.e. for a coffee), that way the customer can get a code and log on. Also it would be good for the code to only last for a certain amount of time (say 15-30 mins) to avoid people buying one coffee and then staying there all day, taking up space.

IMO Thats the only fair way of providing an internet service when out an about

JanSt / MOD  Nov. 16, 2011 at 16:38

I think it shouldn't be free. Frankly: it shouldn't be anything. I'm against wifi.
Wifi is either safe or usable. Never both. Anything else is an industry lie.

Now, go hate me :p

CTPAHHIK  Nov. 16, 2011 at 16:50

Issuing a code (always different) requires some sort of third party to maintain software and security. It would be great if it's just one time fee, but it's usually a month charge by IT company and they are greedy.

Ideally you just want to have secure code (one code for everyone) that you give out to anyone who asks (customers), but this is prone to abuse and there is no way to figure who abuser is. No cost involved at all. Provider customer service will walk you through the setup.

I used to have open WiFi in US as you are innocent until proven guilty. And to be guilty there is burden of proof that it's your computer that was used to commit a crime. In UK you are guilty and have to prove your own innocence; hence, my WiFi is secured.

Rubisco  Nov. 17, 2011 at 11:13

Lol what a load of tripe CTPAHHIK, burden of proof lies with the accuser here too.

JanSt / MOD  Nov. 17, 2011 at 11:24

CTPAHHIK... "secured"? You do know better, right? ;)

CTPAHHIK  Nov. 17, 2011 at 13:03

Rubisco, prosecution only needs ISP to release owner of IP address from which illegal activity is performed. That would be primary account holder, now it's up to you to prove that it was not you. Saying that someone else used your WiFi does not really work as it's your responsibility to ensure your internet is not used for any kind of illegal activity.

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