There are plenty of places offering free WiFi these days, everywhere from hotels, coffee shops, shopping centres, trains and even busses are getting in on the act.
The trouble is though, it’s really not free and often it’s not open. The price you pay may be to receive special offers, only be available if you’re a paying customer and sometimes only free if you happen to have a telephony contract with the relevant provider (BT Fon, O2, Virgin). Plus when you do eventually get connected too often it’s a disappointingly slow almost unusable connection.
You can’t wander from place to place with a constant WiFi connection in the same way that you can with 4G or 3G. Each time you connect to a different WiFi network they expect you to sign in, remember which email address and password you used. Plus many expect you to give them your personal information which they may or may not use to spam you in the future.
Now Google aims to change this and rolling out free superfast WiFi in New York as part of a trial that they hope will eventually be available everywhere in the world.
In New York Google are going to convert over 10,000 phone boxes into portable hotspots. New York City announced the plan back in 2014 and stipulated that any companies interested in participating would have to meet two criteria: 1) The WiFi must be free (although it can be ad supported) and 2) once a user connects to any phone hotspot in New York they must be able to roam and connect to any other phone hotspot without having to log in a second time.
New Yorks phone boxes (booths) are pretty much derelict relics of a pre-mobile era. Google’s project will see them replaced with pillars topped with digital tablet interfaces giving city information and of course billboard adverts to help pay for the service.
The results for New Yorkers will be a single city-wide WiFi network that once connected to you can roam the city with fast broadband for free. Although I suspect that my home town of Thatcham won’t be atop the list for truly free WiFi, hopefully we’ll see it come to major cities in the UK at some point in the near future.