Heathrow Has No Wifi Clothes, It’s Gone Boingo

Heathrow, airport of the 2012 Olympics. No affordable internet access.

It’s high time for another post to the Deviants section of the blog, so let’s get started. Like cockroaches under a rock, Deviants frequently come in packs. Find a problem, dig deeper, and you often discover a bundle.

This time we’ve got at least four deviants to offer you. Let’s start with Heathrow International Airport, bane of international travelers (To remember how bad they are, it would be great if we could “heave and throw” them out of the global airport hub system till they up their game)

At Heathrow, wi-fi costs over $25 (US equivalent) for a “day pass”. No hourly rate is available. This Machiavellian strategy screws thousands of short-layover people every day out of any access to the internet.

From http://www.ihateboingo.com Logo and running man should be reversed, to show customers fleeing, I think. Any graphic designers want to update this pic?

The wi-fi is run by Boingo Wireless, one of the largest and horriblest (yup, that’s a word) wireless companies presently inhabiting our precious island Earth. Check out Boingo’s atrocious reviews at CNet. They’ve been regularly accused of several deceptive practices, including repetitive billing when customers sign up for a day pass, and terrible procedures for getting off their repetitive billing. See more lovely complaints by the downtrodden here. Boingo has an apparent, if not a legal monopoly, on wi-fi at Heathrow. I wasn’t able to find anything else when I was recently there. The information desk didn’t know of others either. (Were you waiting for a way to remember Boingo as a deviant? Think of getting boinked economically, in a coercive manner, and you’re pretty close.)

Heathrow is designated as a hub airport in the global travel system. By choosing Boingo, the UK is screwing all international flyers, telling them what they really think of them and their travel dollars. It would be lovely if the ICAO or another governing body for airports could hold them accountable on this. Heathrow’s general level of service is has long been rated poorly (see the large number of low ratings at Skytrax buried among the positive ones, some of which I suspect are pre-Olympics PR shills). Heathrow’s run by BAA (think black sheep to remember them) the plutocratic, bureaucratic airport management conglomerate that until recently had a monopoly on all the main London airports for years. In 2009, the UK government finally forced divestiture of the two other London airports also owned by BAA. Big money here, so things are slow to change.

Free wireless now exists in hundreds of civilized airports globally. See: http://www.wififreespot.com/airport.html for a list. Apparently T-Mobile (only slightly less sucky than Boingo) was in Heathrow before them. And apparently the Starbucks in one of the Terminals at Heathrow had good cheap connectivity way back in 2006. It’s not rocket science.

Anticompetitive industry lobbying groups like the CTIA (formerly called the Cellular Telephone Industries Assn, but you can call them Controlling Today’s Information Access) push for airport monopolies on wifi service provision, as they did in 2006 at Logan Airport in Boston, for example. That sucks.

It’s high time to recognize wi-fi access to the internet is no longer a luxury good, but a community service that should be free in all civilized countries, like bathrooms. Soon it will be a right, like 1Mbps internet is in Finland.

How do we get free wi-fi as the base layer in all our airports over the next few years, including the largest, most plutocratic and bureaucratic ones like Heathrow and LAX? For a start, I recommend complaining to Heathrow on Twitter, @HeathrowAirport, and using the tag #HeathrowAirport. Anyone searching the tag will forever see your thoughts about their crappy wifi, and can add their voice. You can also complain here on their website, but that’s private. I’d trust BAA/Heathrow’s willingness to do anything with your private feedback as far as I’d trust a scorpion not to sting me.

Until your cybertwin can relay your opinion to the web for you on voice command, for all of us to use to guide us to the best things, and to help us rein in the deviants, take a moment and let them know what you think. If you have any other good strategies in mind, let us know in the comments, thanks!

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