One thing is definitely still missing

When I read Ryan Carson’s post about the UK having everything it needs to foster new businesses, especially those that are web or technology-based, I was in full agreement. However, having made the trek from Cambridge to the docklands area of London today, I can state that there is one thing that is sorely missing (and has been for several years): easily accessible wi-fi that doesn’t cost the earth.
A quick overview of my day:

  • Cambridge train station – no wifi
  • 1 hour train journey to London – no wifi
  • ExCeL public concourse area – no free wifi
  • ExCeL exhibition hall – no free wifi
  • London King’s Cross train station – no wifi (I’m not a first class customer)

To summarize, I had no way to access the Internet on my laptop without handing over a hefty monthly subscription to one (or more!) providers. All I needed was enough access to check my email and post some content to my website, and I only need it 2 or 3 times a year (for conferences). But it wasn’t to be. The ExCeL centre own provided wi-fi actually requires that you call a sales hotline – not very useful when you’re trying to post notes during a talk!

Exactly how are we meant to be taken seriously as a country that wants great technology companies to thrive when a startup founder can’t even check his email at a startup conference? Of all places, you’d think that a huge conference centre in the capital city might be a place that you’d find free Internet access, especially when the entire conference is designed to help foster early-stage businesses whose ability to trade can often be dependent upon their online activities.

While it’s easy to level criticism squarely at the BStartup organizers, it’s my experience that over-charging for wireless network access is a scourge that is completely endemic in this country and something needs to be done about it.

NB:- I should add that at FOWA last year, superb wi-fi access was provided for the full duration of the conference. Maybe the BStartup organizers need to have a word with Ryan and his team.

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