Silicon.com is reporting that London’s Canary Wharf business district is now to be Wi-Fi enabled. I don’t expect to see legions of people heading for the Isle of Dogs for free internet access, since the same article also says the operator, The Cloud, will be offering the service through service providers such as BT Openzone and O2, who often charge fixed monthly fees per end user (international readers should be aware: open Wi-Fi networks are the exception not the rule in the UK).
Contrast this with the US situation where free Wi-Fi access is widely available – something that Silicon.com columnist Peter Cochrane has argued more than once (in one of his articles, he likens using someone’s open Wi-Fi connection to taking refuge under the awning of a shop until the rain stops, or using the light from a shop window to read a map more clearly).
If I have a business meeting and find that my host has an open Wi-Fi connection, I will – if I have the time – take the opportunity to catch up with my email, etc. Perhaps we should regard an open Wi-Fi network as part of the hospitality routinely extended to meeting attendees (after all, most visitors will be given coffee, access to cloakrooms, heating and light, so what is the big deal about a few bytes of bandwidth?). Pedants will argue about security, ‘getting something for nothing’ and so on, but an accommodating approach to visitors, neighbours, passers-by, etc might do wonders for the host’s reputation.