This post comes in two parts as I had written “The Problem” last week, but didn’t have the “The Solution” until today. Hat tip goes to my friend Neel who posted a link about Whisher on Facebook.
Part I: The Problem
This morning in New York City, I bounded down to one of my favorite coffeeshops in the world, Snice in the West Village. Hot coffee and bagel in hand, I opened my laptop only to find that Snice no longer offers Wi-Fi. I should have seen it coming as the last time I was in there, there was a guy who had literally brought an iMac desktop, complete with full keyboard, and smacked it down on a table (whoever you are, you are an inconsiderate idiot!). They had instituted a no laptop policy on many of the tables especially on weeekends, so it was only a matter of time. I finished my coffee, did what I could offline, and walked around the corner to another favorite, Grounded on Jane Street. I ordered a decaf this time, sat down, opened my laptop and once again, nothing.
I am now at Starbucks, where, thanks to T-Mobile, for $40 a month, I am assured of a connection. The problem is that I don’t like sitting in Starbucks. I want to sit in Snice or Grounded, or Tryst (if, god forbid, I’m in DC), or Cafe Hausbrandt (in Philadelphia), or the Panini Garden (in Santa Monica), or the Dolores Park Cafe (in San Francisco). Last I checked, Tryst, Hausbrandt, and Panini Garden all still offered free wireless connections. But free is not the issue, I’d be happy to pay. The creative, office-less class is killing coffeeshop Wi-Fi and we must figure out a way to save it.
Starbucks doesn’t face the same problem. The vast majority of their sales come from quick serve “to-go” customers. In fact, Starbucks recently announced that it is moving from T-Mobile to AT&T and will now be offering patrons a free two hours of wireless access per coffee purchased. The same is not true of neighborhood coffee shops which serve breakfast, lunch, and assorted food along with coffee and make their money on “sit down” customers. Those of us wanting to co-opt their space for our office reduce turnover and hence revenue opportunities.
Part II: The Solution
The earliest proposed solution to this problem seemed to be aggregators like Boingo who were piecing together networks and ostensibly offering some royalty back to the access point from which traffic originated. It now looks like there is an even more direct solution to the problem in the form of Whisher, a new software application which lets any access point owner turn their node into a pay-for-access hotspot.
So there you go. Snice, Grounded, et al… you have a customer waiting. Charge me. I want to pay because I realize my rent should not be completely free and I want to continue working in pleasant spaces. Please, take my money, but don’t evict from my office!