Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[tech] Wireless Internet, & the inubiquities thereof

Back when I was in the consulting business, we used to talk about the "Internet dialtone". The analog is obvious enough — voice dialtone is a worldwide standard that's almost universally available, given the combination of wireline, wireless and satellite telephones. So long as you're willing and able to pay your monthly access fees and connection charges, you're in the voxisphere.

Here in the United States, Internet dialtone has arrived in bits and pieces via wireless Internet connectivity. The access and connection charge model is not universalized as with voice — if you start your day in a hotel, head to an airport, fly to second airport and end your day in a second hotel, you'll encounter four separate access protocols, each with their own rating schema. Yet, at least within the framework of business travel, wireless is nearly universal.

Except at the Torrance Marriott South Bay. This is the first time in several years that I've been in a business-oriented environment where there simply wasn't wireless access. This Marriott provides in-room Ethernet access for $13 per day. It's very slow — I'm almost certain this entire 800-bed hotel is running over a single T1 — and it tethered me to the desk in my room. And it drove me nuts.

Likewise LAX. Here the wireless is for-fee, T-Mobile for about $9 per day. Difficult to log on to, and running at about 56K modem speeds. Much like the Torrance Marriott, I think they're running the entire guest network over a single T1. (To add insult to injury, here in the United Airlines terminal all the wall outlets have been disabled. It's pretty much a big, hearty "FUCK YOU" to business travelers from United and LAX.)

What I can't figure out is whether I'm resenting a curbing of privilege, or whether I should reasonably expect wireless Internet access wherever I go. Note I am not complaining about pricing — I can and do, but that's a rant topic for another time — just about whether wireless Internet access has become such a standard part of life in my slice of America that its absence is notable and even detrimental.

Certainly I've noticed the absence. Certainly I feel its detriment. Certainly I'm boggled that a business-class hotel that's grossing close to $100,000 per night in room charges can't seem to manage in-room wireless connectivity, fee or no fee. And that one of the largest airports in the world can't manage bandwidth to 1999 standards.

Do you consider wireless access to be like dialtone, a universally expected service? Or am I so wrapped in my high tech business travel cocoon that I've lost sight of reality?
Tags: tech, travel
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