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On Coffee Joints & The Wi-Fi Menace
By Andy Sim - on 13 Aug 2010, 11:46am

Tell me, how many of you are guilty of lounging the day away at a café whilst plugged, or should I say wirelessly plugged, onto your terribly iconic MacBook, extravagant laptops and worryingly smart-phones? If you are, then I'd like to know why. If you aren't, then I'd like to know why not. What am I on about? Well, I am just a little intrigued by the whole coffee shop and Wi-Fi affair, and here's my little take on it.

Here in Singapore, café goers at most coffee joints have enjoyed complimentary and unlimited WiFi connectivity for a nice stretch. Net-savvy troopers also found it easier to hop onto the internet bandwagon since the inaugural launch of IDA's Wireless@SG back in 2006, provided they stay within the covered hotspots. I know, I've had my share of hair-tearing moments with the free Wi-Fi service, but I guess beggars can't be choosers when free connectivity is what you're after. We have three more years to "benefit" from the wireless broadband programme, if you care to know. Lucky as we are, citizens in America are facing quite a different fate.

Take Starbucks, for example. Before July 1st, visitors to the popular coffee joint were restricted to two hours a day on the Wi-Fi pipe, and that's provided they are an AT&T subscriber or part of the My Starbucks Rewards program. It was only recently that the Seattle-born coffee chain decided to unshackle those limitations. As a result, Starbucks patrons now get to enjoy free Wi-Fi across the States without any account or time restrictions. Now, did Starbucks just seal their profits and all that's good? It sounds idyllic, doesn't it? To be able to work, surf, or facebook your time away as you relish a cuppa of your favourite brew. Think about the situation though. What if, just what if, every single patron does the same?

Cafes would be filled with zombie-like gadget gawkers, whilst folks hitting the same establishment might find it hard to secure a table since it is already filled with biodroids and their Wi-Fi leeching devices. Then there are campers, mainly clients who hog the seat forever over a single beverage. This scenario is unlikely to happen in Singapore with our relatively affordable 3G mobile plans and so forth. Still, the same scenario can be very real in other locations, like America for instance, if everyone happens to capitalize on the free Wi-Fi offering.

In fact, it appears that this trend is already a reality, according to Marc Savlov of The Austin Chronicle who wrote this rather invective piece last year. Do you share his views, and how would you prefer your beloved cafés to be? Eerily quiet and crammed with laptop abusers? Or alternatively perky and filled with caffeine-induced chatter? Fill me in as I fix a cup of devilish coffee for myself. And by the way, I penned this blog entry on a sputtering computer at my desk, not Starbucks. Till then, salut!

Andy Sim

Andy Sim / Former Senior Tech Writer

Andy is a self-made geek with a penchant for good music and a hearty pint. His domain includes swanky TVs, notebooks and networking gizmos.