I’m a huge supporter of the idea that WiFi should be freely available wherever you are in the world. To me, it seems like the endless march of the technology is destined to take us here, and it just seems like such a good idea; wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you can get onto the internet, a tool that is both nowhere and everywhere and vitally important for our day to day lives. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the internet has become essential, but it’s certainly a powerful item in modern civilisation. And yes, we have to pay for it in our own homes, and it doesn’t power itself, but I still believe in the idea of complete global saturation.
America gets it. Whenever I, whilst over there, found myself in a position where I had to kill some time – usually in limbo places such as airports and bus stations – there was always internet available. Granted, it wasn’t always very functional, but it was there. It was all the more gratifying for me since, as an alien, my phone’s mobile internet wouldn’t function without running me up a massive bill. It was nice to always have the ability to connect to the things that are important to me. It wasn’t just these limbo places, either – almost every restaurant or bar that swung more towards the social archetype than the dancing and drinking one had free, open WiFi.
Unfortunately, Britain doesn’t get it. We see the awesome power of infinite WiFi and translate it from a means of embracing the future of technology into a money-making opportunity. I was less than impressed to arrive in Gatwick airport, with the intent to hop on the internet and find myself the most efficient way home, and discover that the only available WiFi there was pay-per-use. I confess that I rather rudely stalked off from the customer service fellow who imparted this information to me, disappointed as I was. Since getting back from Canada I’ve noticed a lot of places where there’s just no connection, or where the only connection is one of those damn ‘hotspots’ from BT Openzone, the Cloud or whatever, which either cost money or never seem to work.
It makes me sad. The idea of global WiFi is an awesome one that I’m happy to endorse, and I know I’m not alone, as I recall reading an article a while back about a new service that was intending to do this for at least the British Isles. Unfortunately, my country as a whole seems more inclined to see the idea of WiFi for consumers as another opportunity to leech money from them, rather than embracing the concept of technology for the levelling of the playing field that it symbolises: anyone can do or say anything they like on the internet, which is kind of frightening but far more awesome, and I can’t help but be of the opinion that charging for that, in public areas at least, is a vain attempt to put a price on freedom. Poor show, Britain, poor show.