Generation Y Finds Free WiFi

Internet is free unless you want to pay for it.


I am truly convinced that somehow one day Internet service will be free to all with access to a computer. The thing is, it’s already kind of that way- at least in a city the size of Nashville. A monumental event happened last week when Starbucks officially began advertising free WiFi in their stores. For months I have been mocking them for being so behind the times, as they have been charging by the hour for Internet service when McDonald’s has been offering it for a while now. In fact, Starbucks was the last major (and still relevant) store to join the crowd.

It’s quite symbolic of the direction that Internet is heading. I haven’t paid for Internet the entire 4 ½ years I’ve lived in Nashville. My laptop automatically picks up the nearest open network wherever I am, or wherever I’m driving by and decide to drop in- hotels, coffee shops, restaurants, churches, book stores, even auto repair shops provide Internet for me while I wait on my car. And I have weekly taken advantage of all those places.

Last weekend I went in to Verizon to renew my contract (and more importantly, get a new free phone they always offer for staying with them). I found the phone I wanted- it was small, light, and shaped like a stone. Yet when the salesman came over to help me I learned that the only way I could get that phone would be to get Internet through them for about $30 extra dollars a month. I made the mistake of telling him that eventually Verizon will offer free Internet (so that people will buy more expensive phones that make better use of online capabilities).

The guy actually said this to me in an attempt to make a sell: “Having Internet on your phone makes life so much easier. You may look out the window and see a rain cloud and wonder what the weather is going to be like that day. If you have the Internet on your phone, you can look up the weather forecast and find out.”

Really?! Really. Seems like the word “rain” in the phrase “rain cloud” might have given me a clue…

He wanted to argue with/educate me about technology so I simply replied, “Where are the phones that don’t require me to purchase additional Internet service?” I ended up leaving the store, with my same two-year old phone. The few options that didn’t require Internet were no more advanced than the phone I have now so I’ve decided to hold off on trading in my old one for a new one. It would be ridiculous to pay for what I already can get for free (the Internet) or try use my “free new phone” pass on a phone identical to the one I already have. And since I don’t live with a constant need to Tweet, I will manage just fine.

Surely it says something about access to free Internet use when I have built and maintained this website mainly using the Internet of Borders (where I’m posting this from now) and other coffee shop types of venues. If anyone should have to pay for Internet, it should be me. But I never have.

It just requires diligence, patience, and creativity. I also have never paid for cable- I paid $60 a few years ago for “bunny ears” at Best Buy that give me access to ABC, NBC, and Fox (plus some obscure Canadian channels). That’s how I watch the shows that I do recaps of. As for TV shows I want to see that don’t come on the major networks, I can easily watch them on their network’s website. Of course I am willing to part with $9 a month for Netflix- I began subscribing the month they started offering free instant streaming.

There’s a very thin line between being cheap and being smart. I’m okay with either side of that line.

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