I Hate Forced Community WiFi

One of my law school classmates once said, in response to a program designed to make us all spend even more time together, “I hate forced community.”

I was put in mind of her words last weekend at Boston’s South Station. I had half an hour to kill until my train, so I tried to go online and do a little casual blog-reading. No dice. There was WiFi, all right, but it led only to a walled garden—a small portal site that led only to information about South Station itself. The site had also clearly been neglected; the so-called “community” forums were overrun with vandalism and with people complaining about the lack of wider-world Internet access.

Some people were theorizing that the restrictions were there so that we’d pay to get unrestricted access. I don’t believe that theory, because there wasn’t a functional WiFi access point where I could have paid for outside access if I’d wanted to. (Not that I’d have wanted to, at least at the prices such services usually charge.) No, my sense is that the folks at the Boston Globe, proud sponsors of this travesty, honestly thought they were doing something nice by creating a little local online community of travelers. The only community I could detect was one united in cursing the uselessness of this crippleware wireless and the foolishness of the dead-tree mindset at the Globe behind it.

I, too, hate that system in South Station. I can’t believe the Globe is behind it—yuck! There’s no content….nothing.

I wonder how much it would have cost to un-disable it? And, finally, how many pennies a ticket it would take to make such an innovation available to everyone stuck in that rather inhospitable and drafty station.