thoughts on our urban future

Hot Spots

A lot is spoken about the now very consolidated trend on cafes and bars providing wifi ‘hotspots’ to encourage customers to use laptops and other portable devices to connect to the web. This has changed urban behaviour to the extent we are able to work, or connect for whatever reason from everywhere and anywhere, blurring the boundaries between public space, personal space, work and  enterntainment.

At least that is what I and my fellow writers thought as we were getting together to set up this website. A quick office-based websearch offered a number of places we could choose to go to and use wifi facilities near Picadilly Circus. Surprisingly for such a location, there was not so much to choose from. A restaurant? Starbucks? Cafe Nero? Isn’t there somewhere better we can go to? We settled for the upstairs bar and coffee shop at Waterstones, only to find out their wifi wasn’t working. Ended up at Cafe Nero where we had to pay for a slow and unreliable connection. So it is possible, but not necessarily easy. If it is like that in a city like London, I wonder what it is like elsewhere? Our urban lifestyles are not fulfilled to the extend we think they are – the immediate still needs planning.

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  1. I’ve seen technology advocates suggesting you can have city-wide wi-fi bubbles that would provide access to everyone within it. I wonder how long before the ‘right’ to the internet is considered basic? I’ve heard some politicians arguing for this. Connectivity is certainly one of the key ways in which life has irreversably changed in the past twenty years.

  2. Wifi as a right is an interesting concept. Areas have tested free wifi for town and neighbourhood centres, but this is to promote business competitiveness, not given as a human right as such. I try to think of other ‘rights’, but things that come to might are access to libraries (and provided internet), voting, travel cards for the elderly, etc.

    Broadband at home is based on physical locations – mobile phones freed telephone service to be mobile, and I believe the same is developing for internet, but the biggest constraint is the infrastructure, I believe. This requires additional costs, and at the moment internet provision is through private companies. I assume this will continue to so in the future until a collective shift occurs (perhaps with the internet continuing to invade and influence everyday activities). Until then, I think we are doomed to poor, slow or costly access on the go!

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