Net on the go
By Ryan Morrison
Imagine being able to check your email, blog or read the latest from BBC Jersey on the beach.
“WiFi: Short for ‘wireless fidelity’. Many airports, hotels, and other services offer public access to WiFi networks so people can log onto the Internet and receive emails on the move. These locations are known as hotspots.”
At least that’s what the British Library has to say about the technology, with the more technical bits of the definition removed.
The British Library quote above is a pretty accurate description of WiFi, except that it isn’t exclusively public; there are private WiFi connections in people’s homes and offices as well.
But it also expands beyond indoor places like hotels and airport – for example, one group have set up free WiFi access on Brighton Beach.
Expanding even further than that – an increasing number of cities and towns, right around the world, are setting up WiFi connections for people to use anywhere outside.
You can now sit in Central Park in New York and check your email, chat to friends on My Space, upload a photo you’ve just taken of a dog to Flickr or write about writing in a park on your blog.
The idea of only having the net in the office or in your house is becoming less true each year.
In the UK you can browse the net, at a much lower speed than at home or work, from large parts of the City of Norwich and it was pretty well used.
Kurt Frary, who managed the project at the local authority said: "We had 1,800 connections in the first week, more than 2,500 in the second and 3,000 in the third. It's been glitch free so far - we have had very few technical problems."
The biggest concern of an island, or at least town wide, free public WiFi system would be the affect on internet cafes.
But we can take another look at Norfolk for a solution to this problem. They’ve kept the connection speed relatively slow and limit time to one hour.
Mr Adams, director of corporate resources and cultural services said “the one thing we don't want to do is compete with commercial companies, we have a speed of 256Kbps in order to not compete with wireless hotspots."
Users are also limited to a one-hour session and have to reconnect after 60 minutes – with the speed and time limit this restricts people from doing things like Skype and other bandwidth hungry tasks.
The Library and Schools
Recently students in Jersey have been calling for free WiFi in the town Library and other public places.
David Edwards, who studies Biological Sciences at Exeter says not having wireless has prevented him from taking advantage of the peace and quite Jersey Library can offer those wanting to study.
But it goes beyond students. Having the ability to connect from anywhere in the island – on a park bench, on the beach, in a bar, restaurant or café is good for business too.
People working in the islands finance, technology or in fact any other industry can take their meeting out of the office and into a different environment.
It’s also good for tourism. If you get a team that’s considering a trip to the island for a conference or team building exercise – having free public WiFi would enable them to keep in touch with the office from anywhere.
The alternative approach to a States sponsored, or States run and commercially sponsored WiFi system is for business to do it themselves.
A number of Jersey coffee shops, cafes and bars are already introducing free WiFi connections, or at least low cost connection for people eating or drinking in their business.
It could also just be introduced in key areas like the Library, Cyril le Marquand House and the major parks.
Over to you
Do you think the island could benefit from a free, low speed WiFi network? If so how far should it go – should the network cover the whole island or just town?
What about having it just in key areas like the library and parks?
Or would you rather leave it to private companies. For example, would you rather Jersey Telecom, Newtel or Cable & Wireless installed a town wide WiFi connection and then charged a small monthly fee to use it?
How important do you consider internet access to be?
last updated: 29/04/2008 at 16:42
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