Is WiFi a Man-Given Right?

Photo by gibsonsgolfer CC license via Flickr.com

Early in the summer, we took a trip to Europe. This my first time using the Miami International Airport. I had my two-month-old iPad (3rd generation) ready to give it the full mobile test – how comfortable will it be for use in airports, for reading and gaming on planes, and for doing work while abroad? The iPad passed the test, but the airports didn’t do so well.

Let me give you a short background of my traveling experience, so you know where I’m coming from. In the past 7 years I have traveled to San Francisco, Las Vegas, throughout the US East Coast, Italy, France, Barcelona, London, and South Africa. Miami had its many challenges, but I will focus on the technology aspects.

This was the first airport I have ever been to that did not offer free WiFi. To access their network there were paid rates by minute and hour. This was completely shocking to me, almost scandalous. Since I couldn’t dip too far into my offline activities that were reserved for the 9-hour plane ride, I had some time to think. I wondered if this was an anomaly, part of an already infuriating airport experience, or a new trend among travel ports. Was a getting a glimpse into a bleak future, a WiFi wasteland?

When I think about WiFi, it is always associated with the words “free” and “public.” This is thanks to many restaurants, coffee shops, and retailers who have been offering internet access free for years. Many large shopping malls also offer the free connection. As mentioned earlier, I have also experienced this public service at airports and some train stations. The precedent for free WiFi has been set by these businesses and organizations.

Given the atrocious airport where I was having this experience (can you tell I really dislike that airport?), I attributed it to a small pocket of WiFi dictatorship. Of course, I had to test this theory and try for WiFi once we landed in Paris. There was WiFi, but not free. Despite this, the city itself had signs in many areas claiming free, public WiFi. Unfortunately we were unable to connect to any of the hotspots with an iPhone. Even though we prepared it for international use, I wonder if there was still something about the American phone that was preventing the connection. At least the Parisian government valued public WiFi even if their airport did not.

The paid WiFi at the airports was still bothering me. I thought back to my time in New York. Free WiFi has been added to many of the public parks in that city. I also recently read about an initiative to install free hotspots at the city’s payphones. In addition, I now had evidence from Europe, that WiFi is an urban, public service. Even the $70-a-night hotels along i95 have free WiFi in the guest rooms.

I guess time will tell whether WiFi stays a public right, or moves in the direction of paid service.

Is WiFi a natural right? Is it a public service or a product? I would like to hear from readers about your opinions and experiences in different locations? Where have you found free WiFi? Where has it cost you money?

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Reading List: DIY Social Network, Hidden Profits, Flame Retardants, Who is Really in Control?

This is my weekly list of what I most want to share. What have I read that was fascinating, exciting, puzzling, or inspiring. Catch up on some things you missed from the past week. Maybe I dug up a few obscure gems that are totally new to you. Check out the brief ones now and save the more lengthy ones for later. Share and be share to…here’s the list:

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s letter to a young writer. Hard words to hear, but good advice. Via the “Letter’s of Note” blog.

Apple’s hidden profits: billions tucked away for taxes it may never pay. Very interesting read from The Washington Post. You decide whether or not what they are doing is fair or ethical.

Flame Retardant Chemicals. Via the EWG. Its about time our government took notice of this important safety and environmental issue.

Excellent dissection of the service Facebook provides and alternative companies that just do some things better. This is one I wish i wrote. Via “LifeHacker.”

Watch This

News reel footage of the Olympics from Italy – not sure what year – maybe 1950s.

Long reads

Amazing essay on innovation and how we have trouble getting big stuff done. Via Worldpolicy.org

Who is really in control of America’s farmland? Much of the focus of the article is on Missouri, but these are nationwide issues. Via The Nation.

The changing landscape of hiring is disenfranchising workers. A wonderful, indepth, and scathing piece from Mother Jones.

“My hometown is vibrant.” How a meaningless buzzword of urban development isnt producing meaningful results. Strikes an impressive balance between satire and informative reporting. Via The Baffler.

Must Reads

I planned on keeping this blog simple, but the ideas just keep coming. I’m just going to roll with it. Here is a new weekly series!

This is my weekly list of what I most want to share. What have I read that was fascinating, exciting, puzzling, or inspiring. Catch up on some things you missed from the past week. Maybe I dug up a few obscure gems that are totally new to you. Check out the brief ones now and save the more lengthy ones for later. Share and be share to…here’s the list:

Tech
Batteries in Spray Form – Could our electronics get even thinner?

Dropbox rewards – Dropbox.com, the popular cloud storage service, has decided to reward many of their early adopters of the premium service by giving them their storage free for life (some have acquired up to 50 gig). I think this is particularly interesting, because Dropbox seems to be treating these early adopters as investors. I wonder if anyone else will follow suite. This reminds me of Kickstarter.com, in way, since investors are given certain benefits for funding start-up projects.

Photography
Lovely Sky Monsters – What does it look like as a super tornado forms? These are some of the most beautiful and frightening photographs I have ever seen. If you look at only one set of photos today, make it this one.

Did you know that Sony makes image sensors for other camera brands? Neither did I. Some very interesting insights into how the digital camera production industry works and may work in the future.

Why I Hate My Camera – Excellent satirical execution and expression of the frustrations of the photographer who is awed by his subject. It reminds me of how poets often write poems about the inadequacy of poetry…

Literature, Culture and Education
Famous logos and what they used to look like.

“An inspiring story about the power of literature to open minds and expand horizons.” I also plan to read Orwell’s essay that is referenced.

Florida’s Governor Questions State Tests – As a Florida teacher, this is of particular interest to me. But it does have national implications. This is the first time I have ever heard a major politician or other policy maker question the frequency of standardized testing.

Book Spine Poetry – I really enjoy when she does these. This one is particularly impressive.

Dogs That Love Reading – This is just a few minutes of pure joy.

Must Watch
Italian film production company Cinecitta has teamed up with Google to digitize its collection of film from the past 70 years or so – over 100,000 films. It is also fascinating to see how far we have come in terms of image technology, but how many similar production techniques we still use from the early pioneers of film. Here are two very short (under 2 min.) nonfiction pieces.
Italian Summer Boat Races
Making Cheese

Longer Reads
For the last couple of weeks I have greatly missed the Weekend Reading post from the Cuture Desk at the New Yorker. Here is one I found there.
Until Proven Innocent – Michael Morton was convicted of his wife’s brutal murder in 1987. After 25 years in prison, he was exonerated of the crime. This riveting three-part series was originally published in the Williamson County Sun. Well worth your time.