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Tuesday, 02 December 2003

How not to do wireless

Philadelphia International Airport, Friday 28th November 2003, 6:30pm EST. Outside gate B4, waiting for a connecting US Airways flight to Washington National Airport. Open up the laptop and look for a wireless connection to kill half an hour, and connect to network SSID "AT&T Wireless".

Fire up a browser and am (expectedly) redirected to http://192.168.204.1/index.asp?azc=166.220.254.1&location=PHL, presumably some sort of signup location, which in turn redirects to http://wifistore.qpass.com/index.asp?azc=166.220.254.1&location=PHL. Only nothing happens: the wifistore address times out. The IP that wifistore.qpass.com corresponds to responds to pings, though. I then spend around ten minutes idly fiddling with the connection, renewing DHCP leases, rebooting and wondering why no one seems to want to take my money.

After getting annoyed for a while, my last resort is deciding that someone has obviously cocked up configuration at the airport (ha) end, and on the off-chance that this has happened (and not particularly surprised when borne out to be correct), I decide to visit https://wifistore.qpass.com/index.asp?azc=166.220.254.1&location=PHL, the secure cousin of the site above.

Hallelujah. Get connected to an AT&T Wireless homepage, with service provided by someone called GoPort. Find out that I can buy 24 hours of access for $9.99, which seems reasonable. Spying "other locations" link (clue: it's also on this page, where it links here and is currently a 404), attempt to find out if I can also get service at Washington Dulles International Airport, since I'm going to be there the next evening. Can't find out whether there's service there or not, because the "other locations" link is off-network, and I need to buy access to view the list. Mental list of "stupid things this network has done" is so far up to two, and am expecting it to be much longer.

Sod this. I borrow a friend's cellphone and call the toll-free support number at 866.896.WIFI (866.896.9434). The day after Thanksgiving, and I don't have to wait that long for an answer. I ask if there is any service at Dulles. The man explains that the AT&T service is supplied by GoPort. I say that I know this. He says he'll "go online and see if he can find the information" and is a little perplexed that I can't find out without buying access.While I'm busy waiting for this guy to find the information about other access points, I'm busy experimentally filling in a form about the $9.99 1-time connect access package on this page. A new user registration leads to this page, where you do all the usual stuff like enter your credit card information. Look at this page carefully. There's some text that says:

City, State and Zip Code must match the billing address of the credit card used to purchase GoPort service.

Which is a little strange. This being wireless access in an international airport. I don't have an American credit card, see. I may have an American phone number, but I don't have an American credit card, never mind one with a US billing address.

I speak to the man on the phone about this:

"Out of curiosity, I'm looking at the registration page, and it says you need a zipcode for your credit card."
"Yes, that's correct."
"I don't have a zipcode. I have a postcode. Do I need an American credit card?"
"Yes, you do."
"But this is an international airport."
"Yes, it is."
"With international people in it."
"You see, sir, our service is provided by GoPort, and they do not have the ability to process non-American credit cards at present."
"But you see the problem here. This is an international airport. I am British. I clearly have more money than sense because I want to pay $9.99 for 24 hours of wifi access. But you can't, or won't, take that money from me. And never mind the hoops I had to go through to get to this process. Like guessing the URL for your signup site."

This is how not to provide a wireless service.

38 comments and trackbacks

Oh you have to pay for that? My Palm Tungsten C got on the wireless network in Philadelphia's airport for free.

oops. :D

Posted by: Shawn on December 3, 2003 03:14 PM

What do you expect ? This is America. Everything outside of their country is unknown to them.

Posted by: APA on January 4, 2004 12:50 PM

hey- I have a question. I was in Philly yesterday, wrestling with this same issue. But now, at home, all 3 of my browsers demand that I visit this att wifi page every time I fire them up. Even though Google is still set as my home page in my preferences, it defaults to this useless page. And if I type "www.google.com" in my address bar, I get nothing at all. All other pages are fine, but google is inaccessible. any ideas on how to remedy this?

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