More and more places offer free WiFi now – coffee shops, hotels, airports. Small locations that make more money by attracting you to their stores, like Starbucks, have decent WiFi but it isn’t really free – you need the right cell phone plan or something. Excluding these and looking at larger locations, even considering the payment of large amounts of money for hotel rooms and airfare, the service delivered with free WiFi is almost universally atrocious.
First off, there’s the major annoyance of having to login through a custom portal. Often this doesn’t automatically happen if you are using something like an app instead of just a browser. And even when you do get connected you can never be confident that it won’t time out in 5 or 10 minutes. God forbid you put your device down to go to the bathroom (like a civilized person) and find yourself a stranger to the system when you get out. But these are just minor annoyances.
Call me crazy but my number one rule for WiFi is that it should be faster than a 3G cell connection. In other words, the point isn’t only to save on paying for data but to be faster and more convenient than having to wait for web pages to load. At Oakland Airport my iPad was loading pictures so slowly that I thought I was on a dialup modem back in the mid 90s. I was forced to read my Cracked articles without being able to look at pictures of boobs or other random novelties. Believe me, generic stock photos with clever captions are not nearly as humorous without the image loaded.
Pictured: A dog thinking about converting to Judaism.
My hotel room in San Francisco, which I consider a pretty connected city, had such a slow connection that, at one point, my phone couldn’t even return results from a google search until I manually disabled WiFi so my data connection would take over. And the kicker is that the WiFi wasn’t even free. It cost $50 for the week, which is more than I pay for my high speed internet service every month. How are companies getting away with this?