Free Wifi: Why even bother?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Thoreau, Feb 12, 2012.

  1. Thoreau OIF Veteran 2003-2011 Valued Senior Member

    So, for the past few days, I've tested various free wifi hotspots around my area.

    Here are my results:

    Starbucks* -
    Download Speed: 0.42Mbps
    Upload Speed: 0.28Mbps

    McDonalds* -
    Download Speed: 0.27Mbps
    Upload Speed: 0.05Mbps

    Panera Bread Co. -
    Download Speed - 0.92Mbps
    Upload Speed - 0.48Mbps

    * - I tested two different locations for these companies. The numbers presented are their averages.

    So, in comparison to normal secured residential and business wifi connections which run incredibly faster than any of the above (with average upload speeds between 300-600Kbps), why even bother spending the money to supply a business with and advertise for "free wifi".

    Something is better than nothing, right? Wrong. Something, in this case, equals nothing. Consider this:

    At McDonald's, where the internet is the slowest, it would take at least over 17 hours to upload a 754MB video to YouTube. Trust me, I've tried. No one is obviously willing to sit in a McDonald's for 17+ hours for a video. So, why do companies even bother with hosting wifi services if the said services are not capable of doing even the most simplest multimedia tasks?

    Shouldn't this be false advertising to some degree? I'd think so.
  2. Rhaedas Valued Senior Member

    Maybe they just happen to have old equipment or bad settings, and no one knows how to properly set them up. Maybe whoever brought it in put it at the back of the store, not realizing the range. I know one ice rink we used to go to, sometimes the signal would be terrible, so we'd go ask them if they could reset the router and that fixed it.

    Perhaps that is the best they can do, if it's sharing a DSL line with the rest of their equipment. I doubt they'd bring in a dedicated line just for the public hot spot.

    I doubt they're restricting on's probably just incompetence.
  3. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    Picky, picky!! SOME people wouldn't be satisfied with a big burger that's free - they would complain because they'd rather have a steak!!

    Did it ever occur to you that the VAST majority of people using free wifi aren't even thinking of uploading a 3/4 Gig file???? :bugeye: Most people in that situation are simply doing email. Or perhaps light web browsing. :shrug:
  4. Thoreau OIF Veteran 2003-2011 Valued Senior Member


    Even at that, with Ping rates win the hundreds, why bother? Residential wifi has an average ping rate between 8-33ms.
  5. Rhaedas Valued Senior Member

    Think of the demographics they're trying to bring in. Not the full time blogger or the gamer. They want the business person who's likely to come in, browse a bit while they eat, and LEAVE. It's called turning tables in the restaurant business, and if you have people sitting and not purchasing food regularly, it's potential loss of revenue if there's no seating for the new patrons.

    Or to quote The Simpsons' Apu, "This is not a lending library!"
  6. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    Still - what the heck are you complaining about??? They don't want you just sitting there, go home to your better connection!! :bugeye:
  7. Thoreau OIF Veteran 2003-2011 Valued Senior Member

    What about those (like me) who don't have internet at home? Or what about those who cannot afford it?
  8. Rhaedas Valued Senior Member

    Convince a neighbor to let you ride on their wifi.

    There's always dialup (ACK, I did NOT say that, did I?)
  9. Thoreau OIF Veteran 2003-2011 Valued Senior Member

    Haven't used dial up since the 2001. :)

    I think I just may have to fork over the money every month to get some sort of decent internet. I hate to pay for it, though. I personally believe internet access should be 100% free.
  10. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    I've found that my library has a better wifi download speed than all other businesses that I've been to. I've also seen better wifi speeds at a few airports as well. So you could just keep looking around until you find better speeds or just buy the internet for your home because it isn't that expensive for the 3 Mb speed level with certain servers.
  11. Thoreau OIF Veteran 2003-2011 Valued Senior Member

    Oh, and I already tried that. I asked my neighbor a few months ago if I could have their wifi password in exhange for me paying half their monthly bill. They said no. And just to think, I thought he and I were good neighbors. lol

  12. billvon Valued Senior Member

    If that's the case, then you should thank the people who provide you with free Internet access.

    I use "bar wifi" all the time. I'll go somewhere for lunch, check email and moderate the forum I'm in charge of. I don't need high speed access for that.
  13. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

    I've been hooked on portable computers ever since the Osborne suitcase model, and especially the Grid titanium laptop (1980s folks). And I used the PCMCIA cell phone interface when the first digital connection became available and laptops were just beginning to grow in popularity (early 90s?). I even glued velcro on the lid, to mount my walkie talkie sized cell phone to it. It was really cool because I was getting 56kbps throughput and fully portable. I guarantee you I got curious stares and people would often ask how it's done. That was probably the first few months after they rolled out PCS service on a handheld.

    The point is, my appreciation for wireless mobile computing goes way back. But I always relied on a service provider, a desktop, and a docking station or ethernet port for laptops I'd owned.

    Well I finally cut the cord. I have been exclusively riding a free neighborhood hot spot for the past 4 months. It's great. I'm completely hooked on a wifi notebook now. I just close the lid, grab my stuff, and head for my car. Wherever I'm headed, odds are I'll be back online in a minute or two after I get settled. My average throughput is 10Mb/s, with peak times where it sucks, and once or twice I've had to work offline until the congestion cleared. I just work around it. If I have huge files to transfer, they tend not to be time-critical, so I can set them up in the background or overnight. Last night I downloaded a 1G software development package. I set it up to download before I went to bed, but it completed in maybe 15 minutes or so. I keep time critical stuff online, usually just small documents, so I can get to them even through my phone. That's the other thing: a wifi notebook plus a phone is so redundant, you'll never be stuck out. Some folks use a wifi router through their 4GL phone, but I haven't needed to go that route as my area is wired to the bone and the throughput is usually better than I need. I use a throughput speed checker, too, just to keep tabs on the environment. So far I think it was a good decision. Last time I checked, a month or so ago, only about 10 of the biggest cities had completed their 4GL rollout. So there may be some ripple in service to put up with for the next few months. I think you're right about MacDonald's being slow. I avoid places like that, but I do recall being at one, late at night, with only 2 or 3 customers, and I'd swear I was the only person trying to use their wi-fi with my phone, and still it sucked. So something else has to be going on in a situation like that. All in all I'm glad I made the switch and probably won't even go back to using a desktop now that I'm used to this convenience.
  14. SickBall Registered Member

    I don't think they're designed for people who upload and download videos. For Facebook, forum posting and the likes? That should be fine.
  15. DaveC426913 Registered Senior Member

    MZ3Boy84, you need a serious, serious reality check.

    Your complaint is this: I don't have internet at home, so I want to be able to go to my local McDonalds and (nay, not even download but) upload a 750Mb video on their network - a task which (despite not even having my own connection) I consider one of my "simplest multimedia tasks".

    Do you have any idea how incredibly naive that is?

    One of the primary reasons that these public internet connections are slow, is precisely to discourage abusers like you.
  16. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    Well said - I totally agree.

    Anybody - and I mean ANYBODY - who gets something for FREE and complains about it should have it completely taken away from them. Ingrate!!! :mad:
  17. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Why bother?

    Because it's free. Because it works fine for my e-mail and web-surfing. I'm a light internet user without much occasion to download (or upload) huge files.

    I've found that my local public library has very good speeds. At least it does when every seat isn't filled with somebody and their laptop. It's popular precisely because it offers free high-speed internet, so it attracts so many users at times that it slows down to a crawl. But it's great at off-peak times.
  18. DaveC426913 Registered Senior Member

    ...and at times when MZ3Boy84 isn't there. :D
  19. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    Yep. ;) Freeloaders like him and his *huge* files would ruin a good thing for everyone. (Note: never try to eat where there's a hog present.)
  20. PTFOinNC Registered Member

    Ok, I gotta lend some support to Mz3Boy here, and maybe take Dave and Read-only to task a little bit, because you are neglecting one serious demographic... someone who out of necessity hits the "Free High-Speed Wireless Hotspot!" locations to get important work sent in, in a reasonable amount of time. I work for a RE company, take photos of properties that are often many miles away from my home or my office, and thus it is impossible for me to get back to for file uploading within the time limits I have. Yes, IT IS false advertising to call ANYTHING "High-Speed" if it takes a half hour, to, oh, upload two dozen 600x800 images to a remote cloud server. I don't think this is anywhere close to the broadband hogging that, say, uploading a video to Youtube is. Also, I'm no freeloader... I always buy something at any place that I use their wifi, BUT... I always hook up and start my business connection first, just to make sure it's even useable. Subway just lost a paying customer about an hour ago because of this. Places need to realize that they will have $$ walking out the door and not coming back (McD's, Dunkin Donuts, Subway, this means you!) if they CLAIM to have decent wi-fi and in fact don't.

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