The case for free Wi-Fi citywide
To the chagrin of many of my friends, I have not had a mobile telephone for several months. Some might consider this odd, but after a dispute with Vodafone relating to guest pay-as-you-go telephones that turned out not to be a “thank you for loyal custom since 1994” but in fact a way of over billing £750, I decide I’d try surviving without such.
For me, the result has been a joy as I no longer get disturbed by annoying text messages, I plan ahead better and I spend more time writing letters. I supposedly, also, deal with emails, some say, a little more efficiently. I’ve also found that free Wi-Fi is available in enough places that it is perfectly easy to remain in contact especially when my haunts are considered quite predictable.
For those trying to reach me, yes, I admit it can at times be frustrating and not having a mobile in case of an emergency situation is indeed perhaps foolish. I do not doubt that I will not ultimately cave in and get another contract but for the moment that I don’t disturb others on trains and buses with inane banter is most certainly a clear bonus.
This experience and a Tweet some time ago from my friend Amber Nuttall that complained about hotels charging for Wi-Fi “when they already charge you £18 for a club sandwich” got me on mission to demand that something that costs a venue so little, should be made available in all venues for free.
Friday's Evening Standard "ES Magazine" piece extolling the case for free wireless citywide
In researching this piece, I emailed various venue owners and the comments I received were generally in favour of offering Wi-Fi without charge. Charlie Gilkes, co-owner of Barts, Maggie’s and Bunga Bunga, points out:
“We should learn from New York where it is pretty much citywide.”
PR guru Su-Lin Ong rightly adds that, in this economy, venues need to “make people linger.” Free Wi-Fi encourages such and when Lydia Forte of The Markham Inn highlighted the groundbreaking deal between Westminster City Council, Kensington & Chelsea Council and 02 that will create the largest free wireless hub in Europe, I was delighted. It’s rare for me to praise councils, but for this Councillors Nicholas Paget-Brown and Philippa Roe deserve credit.
Sarah Elder Chabot of Blackberry Farm and Dancing Bear Lodge, two rural retreats in Tennessee, sums up the case for hotels not charging well when she states:
“I think now it is simply an amenity that should be in all hotels… Sort of like towels!”
Two of the few UK top-end hotel groups that offer free Wi-Fi are Red Carnation Hotels and Bespoke Hotels. Others, like The Savoy, Brown’s Hotel and Hilton Hotels would do well to follow their lead and cease charging their guests for wireless.
Soren Jessen, whose 1 Lombard Street and Ilia restaurants already offer Wi-Fi responded most commendably with a message, copied to his team, stating “let’s get rid of the passwords.” His approach ought to be followed.
Ted Turner once stated:
“To be happy in this world, first you need a cell phone and then you need an airplane. Then you're truly wireless.”
For now, I’ll pass on the cell phone as without it I can still be happily wireless. If Ted would like to send me a G500 though, I’ll happily accept.
Commendable places that offer free Wi-Fi include:
· Barts, SW3: http://www.barts-london.com/
· Bespoke Hotels: http://www.bespokehotels.com/
· Blackberry Farm, Tennessee, USA: http://www.blackberryfarm.com/
· Bunga-Bunga, SW11: http://www.bungabunga-london.com/
· Dancing Bear Lodge, Tennessee, USA: http://www.dancingbearlodge.com/
· Elistano, SW3: http://www.elistano.com/
· Embassy Mayfair Kitchen Joel Antunes, W1: http://www.embassymayfair.com/
· Franco's, SW1: http://www.francoslondon.com
· ETM Group venues including The Botanist, SW3: http://www.etmgroup.co.uk
· Geronimo Inns throughout London: http://www.geronimo-inns.co.uk
· Ilia Restaurant, SW3: http://www.ilia-london.com
· 1 Lombard Street: http://www.1lombardstreet.com/
· The Markham Inn: http://www.themarkhaminn.com/
· The Princess of Shoreditch, EC2: http://www.theprincessofshoreditch.com
· Shaker & Co: http://shakerandcompany.co.uk/
· The Stafford, SW1: http://www.kempinski.com/london
· The V&A Museum: http://www.vam.ac.uk
For more information on the Westminster City Counil, Kensington & Chelsea and 02 Wi-Fi scheme, go to: http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/pressrelease/pressreleasepage.aspx?id=3965