A Plea for Universal Free Wireless (in airports, at least)


I am currently sitting in Houston’s magnificent airport after leg two of my four-leg flight to Sacramento.  The things I do for family…

Anyway.  A few hours before, I was in Tampa, FL, whose airport not only has a pretty impressive view of the skyscrapers in a gorgeous dawning sun (I have a picture that I can’t share right now for reasons that will become apparently shortly), but they also had wireless.  Gorgeous wireless.  It was relatively swift, allowed all of my normal functions (blogging, Twitter, Facebook, general searches, etc.), and was all around just good.  Before that, I was in Gainesville, FL, whose airport barely deserves the title, but also includes at least usable wireless — it’s not all that quick, but compared to the public wireless at the community college where I am employed, it is like night and day.

Houston, however, has none of these things.  Right now, I’m snatching wireless off one of the airline desks nearby; they apparently have never heard of passwords.  This service only allows me to access Blogger and general search, but Twitter and all of my apps (even the ones that have nothing to do with social media, but require Internet to function) are blocked.  I can’t even search for ebooks on this thing…

The only other public option around here is one run by one of the hotspot companies.  It costs $4.95 for an hour, which is the only time I can use anyway (your only other option is $7.95 a month, but since I don’t fly all that much, let alone to or from or around Houston, it’s really not worth it).  I think this price is basically extortion.  In other words, there is no viable Internet option here.

This is not the first time I’ve been trapped in an airport without free wireless.  You’ll forgive me for demonstrating my privilege, but I think all airports should have free wireless by default.  There are a lot of good reasons for this, from simple convenience and customer satisfaction to the fact that social networks allow information to move quickly within airport terminals (just in case something has happened inside and you don’t know what’s going on — Tweeting, after all, is quiet; then again, maybe this is a stretch).  Ultimately, I think customer satisfaction is the one that will matter most, as giving us access helps us pass the time doing something we apparently enjoy, whether it’s chatting with friends online, reading online newspaper articles, searching for an ebook to read, or something else.

So this is my plea for universal wireless in airports.  I’d love it if Internet access were universal in general, but I think this is a good place to start.

Go wireless, go wireless, go, go, go wireless!

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

3 thoughts on “A Plea for Universal Free Wireless (in airports, at least)

  1. yeah, I'm with you on this. At least most airports I travel through do have free wireless, if often very, very slow. If not, I can usually justify the cost by checking work email (any cost of wireless access is dwarfed by my bill rate, so the expense will be approved). Then again, having a smart phone goes along way to getting past wireless charges as well.

    In related areas – hotels. If I stay at a Motel 6 (or whatever low-end, motel type) you generally get free wireless that's a half-decent speed. If you stay at a top-end hotel, there is no free internet, you must pretty outrageously for the really slow stuff and still more if you want faster internet. That just makes no sense to me (or my clients when I submit expenses).

    • Even sorta meh wireless would be fine. As long as it was usable for basic net functions, that is all I need. I suppose if you can charge the crazy fees to your work, it wouldn't be so bad. Alas, I cannot…

      Oh, and hotels are terrible. I still don't understand why I can pay hundreds for a room in the Marriott without wireless and then pay half the price for a comparable room at a Holiday Inn with decent wireless. The quality doesn't seem noticeable to me…

  2. In Europe, as if it can be treated as a monolithic entity, we/I just tether our/my phones to our laptops and use the 3G/4G network. Hell when I traveled from the UK to Finland I picked up a 1gb data only sim for €10 from a vending machine that lasted me the week.

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