Oxford Wi-Fi article in Guardian

I have an article in The Guardian today that I’ve been wanting to write for nearly a year: free Net [tag]wireless[/tag] access in coffee shops.


For the life of me I haven’t been able to figure out why more businesses don’t offer free Net access. It really is a low overhead for something that will get people into the shop and that is always the biggest challenge.

Anyway I noticed a month ago that there were two free [tag]Wi-Fi[/tag] [tag]hotspots[/tag] in [tag]Oxford[/tag] so did some research, tried em out, interviewed the MD of the company behind them and then called up The Cloud and BT and had a chat with them and wrote a story. The Guardian ran with my suggested headline: “A cornish pasty, a coffee and free Wi-Fi please“.

Free WiFi at the coffee hop

The printed version is cut down from my very cut down version, so I may just stick up my notes because the interview with MyCloud’s CTO was really interesting. As was the chat with Jamie Hind of [tag]Hotspot Solutions[/tag].
For just £25 a month, Hotspot Solutions will check out your property, install the equipment, tell you how to use it and supply support. And that’s it. It’s then up to each individual shop to decide how to offer access and for how long.

This is great news as it means more wireless, free wireless and so competition. I believe that wireless Net access will eventually become free, or effectively free, and that it’s just a matter of how long it takes to get there. Considering that the Internet’s effectiveness grows in direct comparison to how many people can get on it, I also think free wireless access will represent a huge advantage to all those groups, societies and countries that get it first.

Pasty and Net

So that’s why I was chuffed. Hopefully a load of shop owners will read it or be told about it and realise that there are options beyond BT and T-Mobile installed systems.

  1. We’re still behind the times here in Oxford though. In Brighton there is free wireless in about 8 pubs, and even a spot on the beach. Norwich has just gone wireless throughout the whole city centre, paid for by the local council. Would love to see Oxford copy that.

  2. Nice that you keep following this one Kieren. As you know in Vietnam, wifi is on every corner. Having just moved to Toulouse, it’s an altogether different story. However, I have heard from a very reliable source that all Mcdonalds restaurants in France have free wifi, they just don’t advertise the fact. Maybe it’s the same in the UK. When I have a craving for a cheeseburger I’ll go and test the theory.

  3. You’ve moved to Toulouse? How come?

    Some McDonalds in the UK have cheap or free computers to use and some have free Wi-Fi. The problem is that a) I hate McDonalds food, find it almost impossible to eat and 2) Fast food restaurants come third after hospitals and airports in my absolutely least favourite places to be.

    Have the French got over their hatred of McDonalds and “le fast-food” yet?


  4. The French love “Mcdo”. I read somewhere they eat it more than the any other European country. We’ve been thinking of moving for ages, finally decided earlier this year when contracts were up for renewal. The missus is from Toulouse. We both like the place and didn’t really fancy the UK. All the same it’s a bit of a culture shock, but great to be back in Europe. Now the hard task of finding paying work… Paying work that pays for Europrices 🙁 Any editing jobs, writing gigs up for grabs, please scream my way… Not desparate yet, but may well be by Oct/Nov. Planning a UK trip/work hunt in Oct.

  5. Ah well, a bit of local Toulouse culture should be good for the soul.

    I’ll keep you in mind re: work.


  6. There are 6 free Wifi pubs in Oxford

  7. I’ve been lobbying quietly for 18 months or so now – I don’t believe the Norwich model is what we should be aiming at but more like Philadelphia in the US – but these are issues of detail. Certain city councillors have been supportive and I am now beginning an “influencing strategy” aiming to contact various “great and good” folks interested in the city and its economic development and so on. But a grass-roots campaign would also be important. Wirelessoxford.org is just starting out and I’ll quickly be adding functionality to it to enable people to sign up and pledge support and so on.

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