Why doesn’t the UK have free WiFi?

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I had a meeting in Windsor yesterday, and arrived just in time to see the changing of the guard march up the road into Windsor Castle.

A great start to the day, although sadly it went down hill as soon as I stepped into a coffee shop. Trying to find a WiFi connection is an virtual impossibility in England. Either I’m on the wrong mobile tariff (O2 in Starbucks, Virgin for the London Underground…), or the WiFi entails begging the bar staff for a password.

What a difference from last week in New York where it made no difference which hotel, bar or restaurant I was in, there was always an open WiFi connection available to use. There were no restrictions, no company was worried that I might be freeloading on their Internet whilst frequenting the business next door because every business offered free WiFi anyway – Invariably the best signal was in the establishment you were in.

So why are the UK so far behind with Internet everywhere? Today, as usual in the UK, with a silent moan I disgruntledly resorted to a 3G mobile network. If I knew for certain that a certain coffee shop or restaurant had free WiFi I’d make a bee-line for it.

3G, or even 4G networks when they’re available are great, but our tourist friends from America must be amazed and bemused at how backwards the UK is and how hard it is to get online. It was actually easier to get inside Windsor Castle than to access one of our carefully guarded WiFi connections.

11 Responses

  1. I didn’t realise that Starbucks here was network dependent, I was in DC earlier this year and used it on my tablet and (roaming turned off…) phone without any problems.

    Wonder why the different protocol?

  2. Lunch in a Holiday Inn today…. You’d like to use our WiFi sir? Just log in and let us relieve £15 from your credit card!

    (No I didn’t, won’t be going there again though).

  3. Agreed.

    Think of how valuable all those 4G licences that are going out to tender would be if most of the UK population had access to free wifi around towns and cities?

    As it stands the 4G revenue can be used to build 100,000 new homes according to Ed Milliband who is a UK political leader. He is the UK equivalent of Mitt Romney just in case our friends from the other side of the pond have not heard of him.

    There is a secret UK government agenda on this wifi access thing. Give too much away to the public in terms of free wifi and government revenue nosedives.


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