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Should Wi-Fi be freely accessible for everyone?

Wi-Fi is something we can’t live without anymore. Because of this, people assume everyone is online, always and everywhere. We expect everyone to quickly respond to our messages, we don’t plan things anymore in advance, but do everything right on the spot, using our phones. Many people pay a certain monthly fee and get Wi-Fi on their phones in return, making them actually always online. However, it seems these people are not aware of other people who do not have a subscription for their phones, and live off the free Wi-Fi offered by restaurants and cafes. Because of this, they are not always online. This is not only annoying for people who do have Wi-Fi everywhere, but it could also be quite dangerous in certain situations. Shouldn’t Wi-Fi be freely accessible for everyone?

Pokemon Go and its constant need for Wi-Fi

A few days ago, July 5th 2016 to be more precise, Pokemon Go got released. Social media exploded with messages. First about Pokemon Go itself, then about servers that were down. At first, I got kind of tired of it, as always when I see hypes on Facebook (the more people talk about it, the less interesting it becomes for me). But after a few hours of suffering these images and stories about Pokemon Go, I already found myself behind my laptop, desperately Googling “how to install apk file android”. I had already received the link to Pokémon Go itself, from a friendly person on Facebook, as Pokemon Go had not been released in this country (The Netherlands) just yet.

And as I installed it, swearing because of Android’s constant complaining about me not having enough space on my phone anymore (Android users will know what I’m talking about), I saw how people on Facebook were still happily playing Pokémon Go, talking about Gyms and Pokémon in general. Whoa, Pokémon, you did it. You’ve made a real comeback. And not just a simple one, no, one by making use of smartphones and virtual reality. That certainly deserves credits.

Anyway. I installed the game and got ready to play… It worked! I happily caught a Charmander, then saw on the map that there was a Rattata nearby. I had to leave my house in order to catch it. So I left, and before I had even reached the kitchen that leads to my backdoor, a quite familiar message popped up on my phone… “No internet connection available”. The whole game stopped and I couldn’t move.

pokemon-go
Give me internet! (original image: comicvine.gamespot.com)

Really? You want me to turn on my GPS so you can find my location, but I need to use Wi-Fi too so you can determine my location too? I am, unfortunately, not a millionaire. Far from that: I’m a student. The only people who have less money than I have, are homeless people. And they might be even richer, since they can beg for money all day, while I am spending my days studying.

The fact that Pokémon Go blatantly assumed I would have access to internet everywhere pretty much baffled me. I didn’t even realise it was needed, since everyone on Facebook was talking about it too, and they didn’t say a word about constantly having to be connected to the internet. Don’t they care about it? I mean, internet is fairly expensive on your phone, right?

The assumption of everyone always being online

Let’s take another example, this time not an app, but a real life person assuming I am always online. A few weeks ago, I was at my friend’s house and asked, of course, for the Wi-Fi password. She took her phone and I assumed she was looking it up, she might have had it written somewhere in her phone. But then she spoke the legendary words:
“I’ve sent the password to you on Whatsapp”.
After just staring at her like the Confused Black Girl meme, she realised what she just did. We could laugh about it. But isn’t it weird that she also assumed I had internet, even though I just asked for the Wi-Fi password?

my-face
My face when my friend sent me the Wi-Fi password… On Whatsapp.

Let’s take another, more serious, case. The terrorist attacks in Brussels, 22 March 2016. According to Wikipedia , three coordinated nail bombings occurred in Belgium. 32 victims and 3 perpetrators were killed, and there were over 300 injuries.
I was reading an article about this, talking about how it is time for a new plan in case of crises . Short summary: it was about how Brussels needs a new crisis plan in case something goes wrong. After the bombs had exploded, everyone desperately started calling their relatives and beloved ones to make sure they were safe. The result? Phone lines not working at all. The article talks about the Belgian government having written on their website that people need to make use of social media in emergencies, instead of calling and texting. However, since nobody knows this, people keep calling, thus resulting in phone networks not working at all.

As a conclusion (please note that these are my interpretations) the article states that people should learn to use social media to communicate with their beloved ones during emergencies, so the phone networks can stay available for (wait for it)… Real emergencies. I would like to know the difference between an emergency and a real emercengy, but alright. The main point is: people should stop calling others in case of an emergency like a terrorist attack, and use social media instead.

It is quite interesting to see that Pokémon Go, my friend AND Rienk Kan, the writer of this article on Frankwatching, all share the assumption that everyone always has access to the internet.

Because I do not.

I do not have access to the internet, everywhere I want. And it sucks, because everyone assumes I do, because so do they. If even the Belgian government assumes everyone has access to the internet on their phones, then who am I? I mean, usually governments are as oldfashioned as Windows ’98. Oh, did you know the Dutch government still uses Windows XP ? Yes, we know, Microsoft doesn’t support it anymore. That’s why the Dutch government pays 1.7 million euros to Microsoft in order to still receive support. And this government, as well as the Belgian government assumes people have access to the internet at all times!

How I see the Dutch government
How I see the Dutch government

Should internet be freely accessible for everyone?

That brings me to the title and also the main question of this article: shouldn’t we make internet just free? Why are we paying for internet anyway? I’m not even talking about phones here, I’m just talking about internet in general. We have pirates fighting for the right to download everything for free, but do we have pirates fighting for free internet for everyone?

It is a fact that nobody owns the internet. That’s the reason why it’s possible to post anything you want as long as it’s legal. And if you want to post something that’s illegal, you simply go to the Dark Web. So why do we have to pay for it, especially on our phones?

Of course, I get it, internet providers want to make some money too. I think this is one of the major reasons why we don’t have free Wi-Fi just everywhere. Why would people pay a monthly fee to have internet everywhere, if we already have internet everywhere, for free? They would not.

On the other hand, free Wi-Fi doesn’t always work. In fact, I think it would be safe to say that more often than not, it DOES NOT work. So maybe people would still be willing to pay for, say, the guarantee of always having internet, or maybe just faster internet. Also, guess what? We have Wi-Fi at home and we’re paying a monthly fee for that already. So why not allow people to connect their device to that Wi-Fi profile, so they can use the Wi-Fi they are paying for, anywhere they want?

Yes, internet should (sometimes) be freely accessible for everyone!

You know what? Let’s just make a deal with the governments. Belgian government suggests people use social media to stay in contact with their beloved ones during emergencies? Sure, but make sure there’s free access to Wi-Fi in those “emergency-sensitive” areas. You’re calling yourself a real modern, western, European government? Behave like one, and make sure we are online, whenever we want. Because whatever happens, fact is that whenever assumptions like these are made, society should adapt itself to it. And that means everyone should have access to the internet. Everywhere, for free.

Also, internet is now a basic human right . So, dear governments, time to do what you are here for: valuing human rights and making sure everyone can make use of them!

(original header image: www.pexels.com)

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