WiFi access isn’t much farther ahead than it was five years ago. Looking beyond the published growth statistics around access and falling back on actual physical experience, the always on age doesn’t seem to be getting any closer.
In today’s day and with today’s online needs, why is internet access so poor? I’d like to give you statistics to back up what I’m saying. Unfortunately, I can’t, because the internet connection in the coffee shop in which I currently sit is too slow to access an actual real live website.
I often see government reports talking about the poor unconnected dears in the countryside. In our modern, capitalist society we face the sad fact that it’s simply not economical to lay down lines or other hardware necessary for these people to access this modern age basic human right. In theory, this is where the government is meant to step in, but all too often their actions are slow, over-expensive and under-performant.
What about us in the cities though? From the official reports, it often feels like internet access is a done deal as soon as you enter an urban environment. Not true. In the UK, at least, we’re far from ubiquitous WiFi access, such as that available throughout Singapore for example.
Poor wifi results in reduced productivity
Without the internet, there’s less shopping, less communication, less productivity in the modern office environment and less innovation. We’re cut off from the information we’d like to consume and the people with whom we’d like to consume it.
One shouldn’t really need to talk up the benefits of the internet and the online tools and information which it provides. Indeed, our own beta loyalty card storage app, Pocket Card Wallet is available online. The apps merely access the online cards, letting a user download their loyalty cards onto their devices.
Well not now. No more Pocket Card Wallet, no more Google Drive, no more Office 365.
All this because too many internet café’s cannot cope with anything approaching mildly busy periods. What are their lines made of, spaghetti?
If you have seats for about 80 people in your coffee shop, your duty is to tend to that number of people. You wouldn’t serve coffee by the drop load at busy periods, bating peoples thirst, always achingly close to being (but never quite) solved.
In the average café, you can assume that the majority of patrons have phones searching for WiFi access and that there will be a healthy smattering have tablets and laptops open. If you seat 80 people, you can further assume that an expected maximum of around 70 – 140 connections would seem reasonable, in my opinion at least. This would account for phones, laptops etc.
Too often I find myself in a situation where a place is less than a third of its capacity and of that capacity many are kids. (It’s hard to tell what the smartphone accessibility age is among little people, so I can’t say whether they count towards potential connections.)
Yet I’m still struggling to send an email. It’s pathetic. By having the little WiFi sign in the window, you’re telling us poor lost souls that you understand the importance of connectivity. All the more insulting then when that connectivity is worse than that which you’d find in your grandmother’s house.
A global problem
It’s not just in the UK that this is an issue. According to Wiki the UK lies behind the famously internet dependent South Korea. We also lag behind Finland, the Czech Republic and Romania. In terms of internet speed, the everywhere connected Singaporeans have a worse connection.
Business productivity loss
It’s often not much better in many workplaces, with people struggling to access sites in locked down firewalls and watching the few sites which they are given permission to access load painfully slowly on poor corporate networks.
Every establishment should be required to display an electronic sign in the window detailing current upload and download speeds, much like a menu. Many of us only go into these places in the first instance in order to use their WiFi, so why not treat it like any of the other items you’d order on the menu? I’m ordering one massive plate of WiFi.
Doing this everywhere just makes sense. When we walk through the doors of our offices, we’d be able to assess our likelihood of productivity that day and shape our plans accordingly, monitoring online speeds as we progress. Perhaps data would help us assess what periods of the day we should have those meetings and when we should concentrate on work.
After all, we live in the information age. Every business is trying to do data led something or other. Why not treat that most important of resources, internet access, in the same way we would other essential materials?