If You're Going To Charge For WiFi, You Probably Should Make Sure It Works

from the just-a-suggestion dept

In the early days of WiFi hotspots, there was a fascinating discussion among many watchers of the space after Paul Boutin pointed out that all of the overhead associated with charging for WiFi (the billing, the access control, the customer support, etc.) most likely cost a lot more than the revenue rolling in from people paying for the WiFi. It appears that the folks at Chicago's O'Hare airport may be learning that the hard way. The airport has been offering $6.95/day WiFi, but travelers are apparently complaining that the WiFi doesn't actually work. Of course, people will often complain, but with free WiFi, at least people aren't expecting nearly as much. Once the fee gets included, those who run the system pretty much need to make sure it can handle the users. So far, the best that anyone from the airport can claim is that the system is "somewhat less stable than we or you would like." Of course, when most of your users are only there for an hour or two at most, stability is somewhat important. Then, of course, there's the fact that they try to pass off some of the blame on flight delays, noting that the system is more likely to get bogged down during delays -- and since O'Hare features the "worst flight delays in the nation," it's a fairly common occurrence. Somehow, that doesn't seem likely to appease angry travelers. Update: Glenn Fleishman has a good followup on the story, claiming it's not really that bad. It's true that the original report has some questionable bits to it, and it turns out this network is simply a temporary "beta" network to have something up and running. However, if it is a beta network and can't handle the traffic, why charge for it? You're charging people for something that isn't ready for prime time. Why not offer it for free until the "real" network is ready to go?
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  1. identicon
    Charlie, 3 Oct 2006 @ 6:58am

    Chicago Internuhhh access

    Stranded in Chicago for hour after hour I decided to hop onto their wireless and play around on the Internet. The company was picking up the cost so why not... I mean, who doesn't love the Internet.

    I fire the trusty laptop up, get connected to the wireless with a very good signal. Launch the browser and register for access. I get my credit card information in and the "You are not connected" screen comes up. Then I get disconnected.

    I refresh my avaliable network list... the "concourse" option is not there. I refresh again. Nothing. I repair my wireless connection, nothing. I reboot. I finaly see the network.

    I log back into the network and start hanging out on the Internet. Sure, I have a very good connection but it is sllllooooowwwwwww because everyone else who is stranded is using their connection as well. About ten minutes later I get dropped again.

    I refresh my avaliable network list... the "concourse" option is not there. I refresh again. Nothing. I repair my wireless connection, nothing. I reboot. I finaly see the network.

    Not being one to quit so easily I charge galantly back onto the Internet and proceed to amuse myself. This lasts about 30 minutes until I am disconnected again.

    I refresh my avaliable network list... the "concourse" option is not there. I refresh again. Nothing. I repair my wireless connection, nothing. I reboot. Nothing. I reboot again. Nothing. I repair again, nothing.

    I decide to watch a DVD. About 30 minutes later I get the little bubble that "concourse" is now connected. So I do a little happy dance and click on Internet Explorer which magicly shuts down my access to the wireless network.

    I turned off my wireless card and continued to watch my movie.

    I was in Chicago for five hours. I had Internet access for maybe one.

    In Cleveland I was in the airport for about the same amout of time and had Internet access from AT&T the entire time.

    Maybe the delays from the planes at O'Hare cause the wireless to shut down due to the tails causing light to reflect a the wrong angle into the concourse and causing the access points to fail... my only other guess is that the guy winding the crank to provide Internet access gets tired every 20 minutes or so.

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