European hotels and coffee shops are starting to offer free wi-fi
Written in Helsinki and dispatched to silicon.com via a free wi-fi service provided by my hotel
Something magical has started to happen. EU countries seem to have started a wi-fi thaw. Slowly but surely I am seeing more and more free wi-fi services everywhere. in Brussels, Helsinki, London, Paris et al. Cities, towns and villages are waking up to the fact that ease of broadband access means more business and more economic growth.
For the folks in North America this will all seem so very quaint but believe me, this is quite a revolution over on this side of the pond. People here are still paranoid about new technologies and what to do with them. They have been protecting wi-fi and restricting access like it was all a very scarce and expensive resource.
As best I can ascertain, economic growth figures for individual countries currently peak at around 6.5 per cent. Roughly speaking, those countries in the zero to four per cent range have poor broadband infrastructures, whilst those above this level are among the broadband leaders with good access provision. What is most important though is the estimate that 50 per cent of this top-end productivity has been engendered by broadband and the resulting rise in ecommerce.
Even in London, which is now without doubt one of the most expensive cities in the world for anything, a thawing process is evident. London hotels are notorious throughout the international business community for their outrageous charges for wi-fi and LAN connectivity, not to mention basic telephone calls to and from rooms.
But I'm encouraged! The first few drips of business sense have started to seep through the dam wall of stupidity. All over London there are posters advertising that the Radisson hotels provide free broadband globally. Well I can vouch for them! I use the chain in London for stopovers, coffee, meetings, whatever. And I certainly use them internationally.
The good news is that the Radisson chain isn't the only one. Others have also figured it out - such as The City Inn Westminster - and so have some independents. Well it ain't rocket science is it? Wi-fi and LAN access cost zip compared to everything else provided by a hotel, and it has the attraction powers of sugar to an ant. In the business world a hotel with a buzz of activity is a hotel providing a good service and human networking prospects.
Speaking of wi-fi, for years I have kept a growing list of places to work from and seek out for stopovers - places with good surroundings, good food, good service but most of all good communications facilities. And now silicon has set up a new website for all of us business travellers to share this information with each other - it's called atlarge.com.
It's starting out with airports, so when you find a good wi-fi hotspot at an airport you can let everyone know about it and we can help spread the thaw! Hopefully we will see this extended to coffee shops and hotels later but already there are travel tip sections and more.
Now just one final tweak and the EU will enjoy the benefits that North America has had for years. Can we just get rid of those unnecessary and sometime incredibly long passwords for accessing wireless networks? Just switch the WEP off - it does nothing but provide another layer of inconvenience. This is especially true in hotels when you have to trek down to the front desk for a printed password and then trek all the way back to your room.
I just used a password for a wi-fi network with more than 20 random characters. It may be my age but my chances of getting it right first time are pretty slim!