Blogs were invented to whine about things, so let's indulge the art by aiming down the sight of self-righteousness at my current favourite target - Wi-Fi on trains.
(Note to US readers: trains are low-tech modes of public transport used mostly by people in places like the UK and Europe to travel between towns.)
It's a truism that public Wi-Fi is expensive, as if connecting someone to the Internet was some kind of amazing innovation we should be thankful for. Do such a thing on a train and it's no different - long-distance train operator GNER takes about £10 ($18) for three hours for the privilege if you travel standard class. Go first class (which is actually rather like standard class on most other country's rail systems) and the charge is waived.
There is no fee either for plugging your laptop into mains power, though that will probably change as the company starts to wilt under the weight of short-sighted government rail franchise levies, but we digress.
I've got to know GNER's Wi-Fi hotspots on 5 successive trips, and they are good half the time and bad half of the time, which is to say the service is mediocre. You can find a Wi-Fi hotspot easily enough - they sit on the roof of every train - but that's as far as the excitement goes because that router doesn't seem to connect to anything beyond itself most of the time.
I'm also not impressed that no link security of any sort is imposed on train Wi-Fi users, which would make the concept a laptop hacker's dream if only for the half of the time it is actually available.
GNER’s Wi-Fi service, supplied using technology form Icomera, is actually highly innovative, using a mixture of connection channels (Wi-Fi APs, GPRS, satellite, and 3G), and a mixture of carriers, to ensure coverage at any speed, and at any point along the network. Getting all this to work would be an amazing feat, so let’s not fault GNER for trying.
If I'm not paying for it, I'll carry on turning on my laptop on in hope, because you just never know. When the Internet browser fires up without incident, it's not half bad either. The rest of the time, it's just marketing puff designed to make the regulators think the railway is being innovative when it’s actually just scraping by on most measures.
There, I've managed to moan about railways and Wi-Fi in one article, an original achievement if only by virtue of its mundane juxtaposition. Did I mention that the complimentary tea, made by putting a single tea bag through a mangle 1,000 times, is almost as tepid as the lo-fi Wi-Fi?
Postscript: The £10 charge now covers 24 hours of use on standard class. I’ll resist the obvious quip about journey times, and say no more.
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