Books written by Ray Sullivan

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Access All Areas

I was recently in Alicanti, a surprisingly pleasant coastal city in mainland Spain.  Alicanti is a modern city based on a medieval port, vibrant and cultured.  It's also a heck of a lot warmer than the towns and cities I frequent in the UK.  Walking around the town I became aware that the local telecoms provider was providing free WiFi around the whole area.  Connecting wasn't problem free, but at least the intention was there and that counts for a lot.

Back home in the UK I'm not aware of any town or city that has managed to create a free WiFi area.  Locally there are pockets of access - The Cloud is used in McDonalds and in Wetherspoons that I know of.  I have occasion to frequent both establishments now and then - one for coffee, the other for beer and curry (Wetherspoons' Thursday Curry night is a very popular draw that tests my liver every few weeks or so).  But outside of these places the access to WiFi is limited - the odd cafe here, patchy reception in some bookshop there, dedicated WiFi pushing a department store down your throat somewhere else.  But nothing comprehensive or consistent.  No ability to access the WiFi out in the street while sat on a bench taking in the architecture or deciding which stores to offer your patronage to.

Now I'm sure there are significant technological challenges with making WiFi free more generally, but as Alicanti has shown, it can be done.  I can see a model being developed where promotional advertising linked to the town or city could be used to offset the costs involved, but honestly the real drive has to be the economy.  Or the lack of an economy, to be blunt.

British towns and cities are really struggling to pull in tourists and shoppers right now.  There's a lot of belt tightening going on and no shortage of locations to not spend your cash in.  Although free WiFi is unlikely to convert any given town or city into the hottest location for shopping, my guess is that whichever ones strike first will reap the most benefit.  There's no shortage of smart phones and tablets, recession or no recession, and 3G is patchy in many locations, as well as being slow.  Being connected, having access in all areas, is fast becoming an aspiration for all users of these devices.  As Cloud based storage becomes more commonplace there will be an increased demand for access to those clouds wherever we are, whenever we want to.

So contact your local Chamber of Commerce, lobby your local Council, send your MP an email - if he or she doesn't do email, then you're probably wasting your time anyway - and let's see if we can get the UK towns and cities connected.  Let me know how you get on, too, because I'm off to Alicanti.  They've got free WiFi.

And it's warmer there!


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