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Free for iPhone Users Only

Posted in New Media and Tech

I essentially admitted to a bit of iPhone envy yesterday. But this isn’t about that.

Seems that AT*&T has opened up free wi-fi access for iPhone users at its hot spots (read, Starbucks). I find that disturbing. It seems to set up a class system of Internet access, based on the device you carry. I have no objection to AAT&T or Starbucks or anyone charging for wi-fi access. It is a service for which many people are willing to pay, and no one has an implicit right to free Internet. But opening the free wi-fi dour only wide enough for chosen devices to enter is a bad precedent to set in a culture that seems to be creating economic class dividing lines at every opportunity.

I should say that I have no dog in this fight: I rarely go to Starbucks, and I fulfill all of my remote wi-fi needs at local coffee shops, restaurants and bars that provide the stuff for free. At least in my major metro area, free is an option for people who are willing to look for it. But I’m not comfortable with airlines that provide express lines for “preferred members”, or coffee shops that look to see which Internet access device you have. Sell to all, or make it free to all.

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