Disconnected in Auckland | May 4, 2008
Hey sports racers. I’m in Auckland at the moment, on the second leg of my world tour and feeling decidedly disconnected. I’m not sure if it’s just bad luck but I’ve been having WiFi nightmares down under.
Like most chain hotels the Internet connection in my room isn’t free. Unfortunately the Internet connection in my room also isn’t working. So I grabbed my laptop and headed out to find a cafe with free WiFi. A scribbled note in the guide book I borrowed from Simon and Nat indicated that the cafe across the street had a free connection. Sadly the Wifi was no longer free and also no longer working.
I tried two or three cafes but the so called “Fast Internet Broadband” was neither fast or particularly board. At Cafe Melba I was forced to register my details before I was allowed the honour of paying them my money and pretty much all of them charged. The networks I did pay for were incredibly slow and much to my surprise charged for data transfer as well as time. So collecting email was fine but uploading my pics to Flickr was a no-no.
I did find one place called Mecca which proudly exclaimed that their WiFi was free. Sadly the network was password protected and none of the staff new what the password was or could be bothered to find out. So despite trying as hard as I can to support local small businesses I’ve found myself back at Starbucks who seem to have the only reliable net connection in town, despite being over twice as expensive as everybody else.
I do have one last tip off. Apparently the traders of Parnell Road have all clubbed together to offer street wide free WiFi. It’s a bit of a walk out of town, especially when it’s raining as it has been the last couple of days. But I may try to make one last sortie out there tomorrow in search of the mythical free connection.
Now I deeply object to paying for WiFi. First off I know that by it’s nature WiFi doesn’t cost much. The charges come from setting up a billing system, offering technical support and then skimming a profit off the top. The bigger problem is that it leads to a really bad customer experience. Instead of being permanently connected and being able to check your emails or Twitter whenever you want, you’re forced to meter your usage. Logging off whenever your activity goes quiet to conserve those precious minutes.
It reminds me of the dark ages of dial up and feels like internet rationing. I’m sure when I tell my children about the old days when you had to conserve your Internet usage they will roll their eyes and say “Oh daddy, don’t be so silly, the Internet doesn’t cost money!”
I don’t know if I’m spoilt and this is the norm, but Brighton is literally dripping in free wifi thanks to the lovely chaps at Loose Connection. Similarly most of the US cities I visit have plenty of free wifi cafes and some of them even have free municipal connections. Even Singapore airport offers a free net connection to all it’s travellers.
I do think in this day and age WiFi should be offered as a free service to cafe patrons, much the same way as they offer free newspapers or use of the washroom. WiFi is extremely easy to set up and by it’s very nature wants to be free. You have to go out of your way to lock it down and start charging for it.
I imagine that the cafes don’t make any money out of this. Instead a salesman from a big telecom company has come round and offered them free kit in exchange for the opportunity to fleece their customers. On the surface this sounds like a good deal, but you’d get much more custom and generate much better feelings if you simply set up your own WiFi router and opened it up to the public. I know that I frequent cafes and bars that offer free WiFi much more regularly than other establishments, even when I’m not looking to ‘log on’. And I would have been there every day for breakfast and lunch if just one cafe in Auckland offered a free connection, instead of being continuously disappointed.
I’m heading to Wellington and Christchurch next, before hopping over to Melbourne, so if you can recommend a nice cafe with free WiFi in any of those places, please let me know.
Posted at May 4, 2008 10:28 PM