I have found some wifi hotspots, but none that I can or want to use. Several Starbucks seem to offer T-mobile’s service, which is too expensive. I can buy an hour at the Easy Internet Cafe for 50p in the morning, a pound in the afternoon, but the Starbucks across St. Ann’s square from the cafe wants to charge me about 12p a minute for WiFi. This doesn’t really make any sense, does it? I mean, what’s the equipment cost? I provide the computer and the wireless card. All they’re doing is giving me access to an Internet connection. There’s also a strong wifi signal flooding the reading room of the library where I spend my days. I can’t get anywhere using it, though. Perhaps it’s just a local network.
I get a little kick out of thinking of the wireless signals bouncing around the nineteenth-century library or the eighteenth-century church a stone’s throw from Starbucks.
There are some cool forms of communication here that are not unknown in America, but just not as common as here. Earlier I mentioned the phone booths that double as Internet kiosk. These are everywhere, though I’ve yet to see someone actually use them since that blog entry I made using one. On Albert Square, there’s a (non-enclosed) kiosk call “i-plus information,” which is a free access point that allows you to send an email (not from your own account; and you can’t check your email), check the BBC news, and check the weather. It uses a tough, touch-sensitive screen and it has thick plexiglass plates on either side and over the top to shield you from the elements. I’ve only seen one person using this, though.
Finally, their mobile phones. Text-messaging seems like it’s done more commonly here than in America. Well, at least there are a number of tv shows and ads that say “Text blah-blah-blah” to enter a contest or to vote for something. Also, there’s an ad campaign going on right now to promote a mobile phone service that allows you to send video messages to other people on the service. Wow. That’s a lot of bandwidth.
I know it’s bad cultural studies practice to generalize based on limited observation, so I won’t say these technologies characterize English culture or even Manchester culture, but these are the things I’ve observed.