CW: Since traveling to Portland, OR last Fall, where free wifi was a given in almost every store, restaurant, and bar, I’ve been wondering why it is such a rarity here in Buffalo. Wegmans, Starbucks, and Ashker’s are the only places I can think of which have it. While it is a convenience for natives, it’s a true essential for travelers and I imagine it must be very frustrating for folks from out of town. Are there more establishments that have free wifi? If so why do they, when the majority of Buffalo-owned businesses refuse to offer this courtesy?
BRO: This has been an ongoing issue as long as WiFi has been around. From the first cafés that offered it, only to find out that customers would overstay their welcome, to the idea that there would be blanket WiFi over the entire the city, there has never been any rhyme or reason to the correct formula.
Even today, business owners will tell you that many customers carry their own plans with them, so why should they even bother? Just recently a small café that I have always depended on for WiFi stopped offering the service, by simply stating that it was broken… which it probably was, but I’m betting that they figured that they would not get it fixed for a reason. In this case I could actually see their point since the seating was so limited inside.
Then there are the cafés that give you a passcode once you purchase a cup of coffee or a snack – that system seems to work until they boot you off after a period of time (buy another cup of coffee and get more WiFi).
I would think that it would behoove a commercial district to come up with a plan, but then again, that would irk the smaller businesses that just don’t want to freeloaders to occupy seats. Same with a City-wide plan.
For a while I had a phone plan that offered remote WiFi. That was great because I always had WiFi with me, and I actually lost track of which businesses offered the free service and who didn’t. Today I’m back to scouting for the “all you can eat” WiFi hotspots just like CW. I’ve found a couple throughout the city’s West Side and Downtown, but not a lot of places that I actually find are so comfortable that I want to go back everyday. And some of the hotspots that I have come across are actual eateries and not so much cafés, so I feel guilty occupying a seat for an extended period of time.
Is there a perfect scenario that exists out there? How does Portland work it out, if indeed it is so prevalent throughout the city? Are the cafés bigger? Do they have a better system? Who should dictate where it is offered for free? Should everyone just be carrying it around as part of their phone service plans? What about Buffalo’s restaurants and bars? And non-food service oriented businesses? What is best for travelers? What is best for Buffalo?