The nearest thing you’ll get to ubiquitous WiFi in Birmingham UK


This is what my Wi-Fi looks like.

Off and on I’ve thought about spending a whole week laptop working in Birmingham’s city centre, to try to get a feel for how well we provide WiFi coverage. And then you know, document it.

I kinda don’t need to now.

This is a Starbucks “reward” card. Don’t be fooled by the logo they use to sell them to you: they are the old style gift cards. If you have one* you can logon to any Starbucks hotspot you can find. Given the market penetration of Starbucks in UK cities, that’s the nearest thing you’ll get to free universal WiFi coverage**. You’re never more than a foot from a rat, and I’m never more than a yard from a fat pipe.

The Starbucks WiFi is actually pretty solid. A lot of the free Wi-Fi hotspots in other cafés in Brum are really slow and unreliable compared to how they were (maybe because so many people are using them now, and asking more of them in terms of bandwidth). As an added bonus, a tall filter (which is the best drink ‘bucks do IMHO) is only a quid making your guilt beverage much cheaper than going into rival stores. You can also double your espresso shot, gratis, or put sugary flavoured crap in your drink, also for no extra charge***.

* If you don’t have one just ask, and stick a fiver on it, which you can then spend on cheap coffee. Win Win
**warning: doesn’t work in the countryside or in residential districts (i.e. near your house if you live in the ‘burbs)
*** evil corporation yadda yadda bored now. I still like Urban Coffee Company more, OK? And I like, totally drink fairtrade. THERE’S FREE INTERNETS FFS!

By Jon Hickman

Hi, I'm Jon. I teach and research digital culture, social media and new media practice at Birmingham City University. Find out more about me with this lovely CV: Find out about my work at the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research: