Only Connect: What We (Over)Pay For Wireless

Beetee-Mockingjay Hunger Games computer techIf you’re one of the many Millennials or their spiritual siblings who live in an American mega-city, you will have noticed by now that you are paying too much for Internet and receiving too little in return. This is a sad fact of life. Life in the US, I should say. Not, like, France.

if you live in New York City or San Francisco, you could be paying more than twice as much as a customer in Paris or London for a considerably slower broadband Internet connection. … In Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris, and Bucharest, $40 a month will buy blazing-fast gigabit service—while in Los Angeles or New York, a Time Warner Cable customer would the same price for just 15 Mbps. Meanwhile, 3 GB of data costs at least $30 in the United States, but for roughly less than $10 you can get 6 GB in Copenhagen or Bucharest. …

$50 goes 10 times further in Hong Kong or Seoul than Washington, D.C.

Does that make you grind your teeth and wail at an unhearing sky? Me too! I pay as little as I can get away with for steadily subpar Internet service at the moment and it hurts my liver.

In the past, I’ve gone in with neighbors, making deals to share wifi between our two apartments, so as to split the cost. In the further past, I’ve gotten accustomed to crouching on the window sill with my laptop, half in half off the fire escape, so as to glom onto some stranger’s unsecured network.

We will all do what’s necessary for connectivity: lie, cheat, steal, risk our necks, buy coffee we don’t need, deal with neighbors we don’t like. Some folks will accidentally run up over a thousand dollars in charges using it while airborne.

Jeremy Gutsche flew from London to Singapore on Singapore Airlines. He purchased a 30 MB in-air Internet package for $28.99. When he deplaned, he was shocked to learn he’d been hit with an additional $1,142.47 in overage charges.

Gutsche, the chief executive of Trend Hunter, a self-described “popular trend community” website, says he racked up a terrifying $1,171.46 bill for in-flight Wi-Fi from provider OnAir. In an initial post on Trend Hunter, Gutsche wrote that he used data to upload a 4 MB PowerPoint and make “155 page views, mostly to my email.” He says video, the typical culprit in over-the-top data bills, didn’t even play a role—”the Singapore Airlines internet was painfully slow, so videos would be impossible.”

Now that’s a cautionary tale if I’ve ever heard one. Riding a plane this holiday season? Bring a book!

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