Viva Free Internet

Why does getting wireless Internet still cost an arm and a leg?

Chained to the Laptop

This post was written as part of Peeve Week 2: Internet.

Internet has evolved quite a lot since 1969 when ARPANET first launched it. Thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of HTTP in 1989 we got the 8th wonder: the World Wide Web.

Now, in XXI century more and more people are getting Internet connections. As of June 10, 2007, 1.133 billion people use the Internet according to Internet World Stats.

Some of us can’t even imagine life without the Internet anymore. It’s the easiest and often cheapest way to connect with our family and friends, especially if they’re scattered all over the world.

With the popularity of Instant Messaging applications, more and more people abandon the expensive long distance phone calls in favor of IM programs. Even businesses now recognize the great potential of IM programs and rely on Skype for their daily phone calls and conferences.

I did mention the word “cheap” earlier, didn’t I? But unfortunately it’s not always true. And the Internet is not always accessible. Some airports, hotels, and cafes charge an arm and a leg to go online. During my recent business trip I was stuck at the Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport for 2 hours, but when I tried getting online I was shocked by the charges. I had two options: pay 6 euros for 30 min of internet access or 10 euros for 24 hours of internet. Of course, you don’t have to be a Math genius to realize that in the end it’s cheaper to get the 2nd option. But I wasn’t spending 24 hours in that airport, not even 10… not even 5.

Fortunately one of my colleagues had purchased some kind of universal Internet access and connected me to his laptop with an Ethernet cable. And I was online in no time.

But then that grueling 9 hours flight from Vancouver to Amsterdam… Why don’t they have Internet access on the planes? They do have radio and BBC news, but why not the Internet? Don’t they know it’s 2007 already?! They had Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

And what’s with the hotels charging for the Internet access? Shouldn’t it be included in that astronomical fee we pay for staying there? The same goes for cafes – I already bought coffee from you, now you want me to pay for getting online too?

Fortunately in Vancouver, BC the Internet access at the airport is free (although the signal is pretty weak), and there are many cafes in the city offering free WiFi. Actually, there’s a very useful website – WifiMug: Caffeinated and Unstrung. Currently it lists only four cities with an extensive collection of cafes that offer free internet access. Vancouver is one of them. It’s a Wiki site, so if you know such cafes in your city, it would be great to add them to this website.

We need more places that offer free Internet. Viva Free Internet!

If you would like to read more of what Vivien – the Canadian blogger/Career Mom/Web Designer – has to say about facts of life, design and blogging, head to her site Inspiration Bit and get inspired.

14 thoughts on “Viva Free Internet”

  1. I'm finding more and more cheap internet places in public… but I wouldn't know about places such as airports. I suppose it's another easy way to inflate the prices, such as some of the shops in the airport. AUD $10 for a little souvenir keyring? No thanks…

    But a new 'internet cafe' type of thing opened up in a shopping centre nearby. It's in the middle of the shopping centre, in the walkway basically. There are about 20 computers, and to my amazement, no-one guarding them, supervising them at all. I walked closer and took a look, and saw that the computers were bolted down and chained, made of solid looking cases, and had coin slots! Maybe that's not new, but it's the first time I've seen it. The price seem ridiculous though. AUD $2 coin for 10 minutes or something? AUD $5 can get me nearly a full day at some internet cafe's.

    Some places seem to charge a helluva lot of internet… who knows why? It's not anything particularly 'high class' anymore. More and more people are getting on the WWW right as we speak now!

    Good post Vivien. I like the way you write… it's to the point, and captures interest without becoming too lengthy and overwhelming. Good on you! =D

  2. I like the local Barnes and Noble where you have to pay $30 a month to have wireless Internet. Of course you could use it at any Barnes and Noble, but it seems a waste of money unless a lot of time is spent in the bookstore.

    As far as coffee goes, I think coffee companies that do charge for wireless should at least give you free minutes based on the dollar purchase of your coffee. For example, maybe you get five free minutes for each dollar you spend. If you buy a five dollar cup of coffee, then you get twenty-five free minutes.

    1. Totally agree with you man, especially with the obnoxious fact that coffee companies, even if you are theirs client, you still have to pay for Internet.

  3. Thanks for the compliment, Jess. Glad to know someone likes my writing ๐Ÿ™‚

    I've never seen such a chained computer either. There are several community centres here in Vancouver where you can get a free internet access or work at their computers.

    The problem is that when I'm in a different city, I don't know who's offering free internet access. I think it should be standardized – all coffee places should offer free internet. I think it's a great marketing tool – who wouldn't buy a coffee or tea and enjoy drinking it while surfing the web or catching up with emails at the same cafe? I know, I would.

    That's one of the reasons I don't go to Starbucks. Besides being one of the most expensive coffee places with a mediocre coffee, they also want me to pay to use their internet. No way. I rather support a local coffee place with free internet.

  4. HI! I am shocked to hear that you had to pay that much! I am from the Netherlands and indeed Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is charging way too much for internet!

    However one event in particular is unfolding in our country and that is WIFI in the public trains! WOOHOO! The next step will probally be planes! We just gotta wait a lil’ bit longer ๐Ÿ™‚ haha!


  5. Ya… internet can be pretty expensive. I have a pretty low bandwidth limit in Canada and after 20gb each extra 1gb costs me $10, pretty ridiculous. I heard in the US they have unlimited bandwith, sounds crazy to me ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. I heard they’re going to implement some safe WiFi internet access on planes and I think companies like Emirates already have something like that. What I was flying from Seattle to Vancouver last week, I was asked even to turn my camera off, but maybe that’s because of security reasons ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Wow this is valuable information thanks. It’s good knowing a little more about the internet and its origins, and how it’s doing today. And I totally agree about more free internet, I’m sure it couldn’t cost that much for free wifi, where I live the train cars all have free wifi, so I don’t see if a train car can do it for free, why can’t an airport.

  8. The addiction on internet overcome everything ever, but unfortunately people are using it in wrong directions! I know that many of you will probably tell that I am kinda crazy, but I do not play computer games, so that is why I can not understand people that are having so much time next to their computers playing online games, it’s just simple waste of time, I would rather read something useful, then play games! I would rather took my bike rack and go for a camping with friend than play games. Socialization, people! Internet is best thing that happen to this humanity, but some guys are just taking it on a wrong side! I would like to have internet everywhere, but I would also like to have some real friends!

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