Wipe Out

Posted on 7th August 2007

Recently I've been looking for an alternative venue to host the Birmingham Perl Mongers social meetings. Although The Wellington is a nice pub with some excellent real ales, it doesn't have a free wifi connection. The pub itself is wired live to the internet, as the instant a pub runs dry the staff update the website, so they do have the potential to add a wireless router. However, in most of the pubs that do have wireless, they seem to be signed up to people like The Cloud.

While trawling the web looking for alternative locations, I happened across an article posted last year, that highlights two things about the wireless internet business in the UK.

First off is that the prices are way too high to be anything but greedy. One person connected to The Cloud for 24 hours would be enough to pay the bandwidth on a 4MB broadband line for a month, and at least 2 routers, with the rest covering any administration charges. Public WiFi in the UK is expensive. If a company wants to make money out of the use of a service like this, why are they charging such a high rate. Think about it. One person might pay £2.99 per 30 minute session, but you're more likely to get more than 3 if it was under £2 per hour. I also don't get why the pubs, cafes and the like don't put more effort in to promote free wifi and get people like The Cloud to charge the venue a standard fee. This fee would then be offset by attracting more people to their establishments and selling more drink and food. In this day and age there are more and more people are carrying portable wireless internet enabled devices, whether it's a laptop, mobile phone or a Nokia N800. What better way to attract them in for a quick pint or two than to allow them to do some web surfing at the bar?

The second issue is about the content people are viewing, and why some may fear being prosecuted for transmitting that kind of material. With companies like The Cloud routing all web surfing activites through central servers, internet level security companies, such as MessageLabs, are well placed to enable that peace of mind and block all inappropriate content. There is no reason for the fear, other than for the service providers to give a reason why they need your credit card information so they can track your surfing habits.

Free WiFi internet access is growing in other parts of the world, because the pubs, bars, cafes and clubs all realise the additional revenue it brings in, when punters buy their main retail items such as drink and food. The UK seems so far behind in this realisation that it's almost backward. I only know of one pub in the whole of the Birmingham borough (not just the city centre) that provides free Wifi. If it wasn't in such an odd spot, I would move the Birmingham Perl Mongers socials there ready for the next meeting.

After I started to write this piece, I've been well informed (thanks Kake), that JD Weatherspoons now have a special deal for WiFi users in their pub. Buy a pint and you get 30 minutes free wireless internet access. This is exactly the kind of thing that pubs should be offering. After all, if they're going to offer free WiFi, the least you can do is buy a pint. Though it does pose a problem for slow Guinness drinkers like myself ;) We have a social meeting tomorrow, but it's a little late to change venue, but we may well look to see whether we should decamp for next month to The Briar Rose (only a few doors down from The Wellington).


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