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Thanks Google, For the Free, Unusable Wi-Fi on Planes This Holiday

Illustration for article titled Thanks Google, For the Free, Unusable Wi-Fi on Planes This Holiday

Did you know Virgin, Delta and AirTran has free Wi-Fi on their planes this holiday season? If you didn't, the flight attendants will tell you when you board—which is bad for those who actually need to use the Wi-Fi.

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You see, I'm on a plane right now to NYC. Normally I'd pay the $9 (then expense it later) for Wi-Fi on a five-hour flight so I can pass the time with something I should be doing anyway—working. But today? Today it took five minutes for my IM to connect. Today, I have to use plain HTML Gmail. Plain. HTML. On a computer, not a phone. Did you even know that existed anymore? It's like going back to the town you grew up in and seeing that that crappy mall no one goes to is still just as crappy as when you left it.

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I appreciate the thought, Google, for giving Wi-Fi to the masses. The people who think that it's a good idea to stream Netflix on a pipe that's shared by 150-odd people. The folks who, because they're now on Wi-Fi, are updating all their iPhone apps that they didn't do over 3G. But think of free Wi-Fi vs. paid Wi-Fi like a public restroom vs. an executive bathroom. If Chevron charged a dollar for toilet-use, things wouldn't be so shitty.

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DISCUSSION

I'm not getting some of the comments here...

People are bothered that Jason is complaining about something being free for all. So I ask, what good is "free" if the shit doesn't even WORK? The performance he's describing is so bad, I'd just give up and log off. In this case, FREE = FAIL.

Others say Jason should argue for more bandwidth on planes. Uh, okay. Even if those arguments are heard, how long do you think that will take to respond to? They just finished installing this shit at a huge expense and with major regulatory hurdles. You think they are going to rip it out now and put something faster in? No. We are going to have to live with the low bandwidth for a long time.

Others say we should be happy this tech even exists since we didn't have it 5 years ago. Well, that's all well and good if the shit actually WORKS. But I'd pretty much classify it as "not working" if I have to wait 5 minutes for IM (a very low bandwidth service) to connect. I'm not going to celebrate this great new tech any more than I'd celebrate a shiny new iPhone that doesn't turn on. It either has to work well or it isn't worth using.