First World Problems: Complaining about Wi-Fi At 30K Feet

How quickly we take the amazing as mundane

I flew yesterday from Ft Lauderdale to Albany, NY, to watch my son in a baseball tournament this week. The only non-stop flights were on Southwest Airlines. When I made the reservations, and again when we checked in online, I was happy to see that Southwest was now offering Wi-Fi service on their planes.  

I have used on-plane Wi-Fi several times before on Delta Airlines. The service on Delta is really fast. Comparable to broadband service at home. It is easy, if a little pricey. There is something about sitting up at Thirty Thousand feet in the air and chatting on Facebook or surfing the web or even writing blog articles that is just really cool.

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I was eager to get on board my flight yesterday and get busy. I had my laptop, my Android pad and phone, all primed to log on and get busy. Movies for the kids on Netflix, some articles to write and post and maybe even some games and Facebook. 

When I got to the airport I was a little bummed that the Southwest gate attendant told me he was not sure if my flight actually had Wi-Fi. It seems Southwest just recently started Wi-Fi service and they are only adding one plane a month. When I boarded the plane and looked for a signal I was chagrined to find no available SSID and a flight attendant told me that the plane was not Wi-Fi-equipped. So, disappointed, I did what I do best on planes: shut my eyes and went to sleep.

I woke a little while after takeoff and the stewardess came over and said the pilot had turned on the Wi-Fi and I should see if I could connect. Well, that was a surprise! I turned on the Android pad and sure enough there was a Southwest SSID. I connected and went to a log on page where I had to pay a five dollar connect charge. A few bucks cheaper than Delta and I was on. I promptly hooked up my laptop and gave the pad to my son.

Well, very quickly a bunch of other folks on the plane logged on too. Shortly thereafter I noticed that while I could do email, surfing the web was a crawl. My son couldn't get a Netflix movie to load. We couldn't even download updates to apps. Checking the Wi-Fi connection, I saw that while the signal was excellent, the throughput rate was near 0. Now that really sucked. After paying all of that money and getting all excited to use the net while flying, to find out that I had 1998 world wide crawl connection speeds was no fun. I was going to fire off an email to Southwest complaining and asking for my money back. I was going to write a post blasting Southwest for this bait and switch.

Then I sat back and thought about it. Here I am, 30,000 feet in the air. I am going from South Florida to Upstate NY in less than 3 hours. I have my computer on and am receiving email, chatting with my wife on Facebook, and I am complaining because I can't stream movies and update some apps that work otherwise. When did I become so jaded? How about being grateful for what we have, instead of bitching about what we don't.

Just think about it. What expectation of access on planes should we have? For that matter, how much moaning and groaning do we hear all of the time about some technology or another not working well enough. You only have 436 channels of TV instead the 450 channels you can have. You only have 10mbps instead of 25mbps of internet service. A silly dual-core processor running at 1.6 Ghz instead of 3Ghz.  

Wake up people! We live in amazing times. Technology is plunging ahead at amazing speeds. We get just a taste of new technology and almost immediately we feel entitled to recieve this technology all the time, at any place and usually at very low prices too.  

I have seen estimates that over half the planet will have Internet access in a few years. That is over 3 billion people. But think what that means. Over 3 billion people won't have Internet access in a few years. Consider yourselves lucky if you are in the first half of the people on earth who have access at all. You have already won the lottery, be grateful.

So next time you are getting ready to bitch about some technology not working well enough, fast enough or big enough, step back, smell the roses and remember how luck you already are.

Have a good weekend!

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