June 20, 2010
Connectivity: SO Far from Seamless
I organized a few bloggers luncheons in San Francisco this past week. Finding restaurant venues with reliable wifi was much tougher than I had anticipated. Eventually, we settled on two venues both promising reliable connectivity and in both cases, we had to rely on my Verizon internal EVDO card to access the Internet on my Lenovo laptop. Modem reboots didn't seem to solve the problem and the occasional access point we were able to grab only seemed to last for a few minutes at a time and even then, the connection was slow.
We think that the Internet is prolific and sure, in some communities it is. I have been surprised at how much more reliable connectivity is in some of the mid-level European hotels I have stayed in than in the states. And, faster.
It's still not a top priority in our airports (although this is slowly changing in some large hubs) nor is it a priority in restaurants and bars although cafes will turn it on for their $3-5 a pop coffee drinkers. What is wrong with that picture?
I agree its obtrusive and having laptops out and buzzing in every venue would be not only distracting but potentially negatively impact the ambience particularly in a venue where there's live music playing in the background.
The other day I was talking to an old college friend who lives in New Hampshire and due to his quirky nature and commitment to nature and the old fashioned way, he still doesn't have a laptop. He wants to start blogging but was wondering if he could fax or email me his posts since the Internet connection at his local library is buggy most of the time and quite often in the middle of a search, the library PC freezes or connectivity times out. Yet people I know in African villages are blogging from their little cafes without a problem. They complain of slow connection but it's doable and they access the Internet daily as did I in a few rural villages in Guatemala and Belize a couple of years ago.
A week after talking to my New England pal, an LA actress friend called to let me know that she finally made the upgrade from a very old (and slow) desktop to a Mac book with "wireless internet built in." The way she reported the news made it sound like it was the first time she realized "built in" was possible. In theory I'm sure she understood that automatic connectivity was baked into laptops but because it was her first experience with it, the concept of not having to use an Ethernet cable was new.
My Comcast service often times out and I occasionally get a lame excuse from a technician: "you live on a hill." I'm sorry, but living on a hill means that I can nearly reach out and touch the cables from my balcony, that were set up to get me connected in the first place. Verizon EVDO saves me when this happens and yet I still have to pay monthly service with no discounts when their service doesn't work as advertised. What's wrong with that picture?
And then there's the fact that most of my friends who are forced to use AT&T on their iPhones can barely get a connection and many have another phone so they can get connected when they need to - Internet or to make a phone call. What's wrong with that picture?
We've come a long way baby but seamless connectivity even in Silicon Valley, the home of the leading technology innovators in the world, is far from seamless and far far from perfect.
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It's funny, my Scandinavian husband always comments about how the connectivity is so much faster there than here in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. Moreover, he says, you are able to get a connection even out in a small village, but here, in a city like San Francisco, there are connectivity issues.
I'm probably biased since I do most of my work remotely and like to take my laptop everywhere, but I am not sure that laptops would be any more distracting at the next table in a dining venue than the loud, obnoxious fellow diner I had the pleasure of dining with last night.
As for Comcast and AT&T - don't even get me started. I've had enough bad experiences with them to write a novel.
Posted by: asalvesen | Jun 20, 2010 6:19:13 PM