Saturday, May 28, 2005

Long Live Free Wi-Fi

Mark Evans



I've got a column in today's National Post about how efforts by Canadian wireless carriers to jump-start Wi-Fi are flawed because the business model - if there ever was one - is slowly disappearing. My thesis is there just aren't enough people willing to pay a premium price for the convenience of surfing the Web and checking e-mail at a coffee shop or restaurant. With free Wi-Fi hot spots, Blackberries, Treos and cheap Internet cafes, you can easily get an Internet/e-mail fix without paying $9.95 an hour or $20 a day for Wi-Fi access. Given this little rant, I found it intriguing to stumble across a story on Engadget about a cafe in Seattle that has turned off its free Wi-Fi service on the weekends because 90% of its seats who taken by people spending hours surfing the Internet. Although it has only been a couple weeks, revenue is apparently up and staff are happier. In another Luddite trend, there are a number of stores in Montreal - particularly bakeries for some reason - that have started to ban cell phone usage. It seems the proprietors were getting pissed off with loud wireless conversations and distracted customers. Now if they can institute laws banning cell phone usage in automobiles, that would be a huge step in the right direction.

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