The Best Free WiFi Is Fast Free WiFi

Free — as in freely offered, not freely pilfered — WiFi is great stuff. Clearly, there should be more of it, but my experiences, and the experiences of just about everyone I’ve ever discussed it with tend to suggest that free WiFi has one big problem.

It’s just not fast enough.

I’ve given up, for example, using the free WiFi offered by McDonald’s. Yes, the golden arches are pretty ubiquitous, and the company’s put a lot of effort into getting WiFi streaming from every last franchise — even the hole in the wall type you find in shopping centre — but with so many users, I’ve been lucky to hit a connection that might look enviously at dialup speeds.

On the weekend, I had to take an ailing iMac into Apple’s Chatswood store here in Sydney. While waiting for a nearby Genius to calmly explain to a customer why they couldn’t reset her Yahoo! password for her, I hopped onto the “free” WiFi with low expectations. It was a Saturday, in the middle of a busy shopping centre, and the store was packed.

I wasn’t quite expecting this:

All the other speed tests are from my home ADSL2+ connection. Yes, I know, I’ve got lousy wiring. Living just within 5km from the exchange probably plays a part there too. Anyway, ignoring those, the top score indicates a very healthy download allowance (bearing in mind that I was sharing that with, at a guess, 20 other customers plus however many other Apple techs at the same time) and an even quicker upload speed.

That’s some impressive pipes for such a small store, and easily the best free WiFi I’ve ever seen, hands down. Now, I’m not suggesting that the entire readership of Gizmodo converge on Chatswood to leech some free internet (although clearly it’d be amusing to try), but it does beg the question — what’s the best free Net connection you’ve ever seen?

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