What people mean by this cliche is that everyone can get on the World Wide Web and read anything and everything that’s on the internet. So, the whole world could read my blog and my stories, in theory – but is that very likely?
On holiday last summer, my husband and I accessed the internet from the Far East – along with several billion other users. Too busy – and too mean – to buy local SIM cards in every place we visited, we used hotel wifi, with the result that our smart phones and iPads used to bleep like security tags on stolen goods every time we walked through our hotel lobby. There was no difficulty in accessing the internet out there. In fact, in Saigon airport, which appears to be served by several different routers, I ‘played’ with it, adjusting my phone settings as I walked from zone to zone. But I don’t think anyone is reading Charlie Britten’s opus in Saigon.
Move on a few months to this week – half term week. We spent the first few days with daughter, son-in-law and grandson in Sussex, using their wifi – so far, so good. The problems started at Gatwick when we got out the iPads to while away the inevitable long wait, only to find that the airport wifi was only available if you paid for it, or ate at a cafe with wifi. Didn’t some actor in ‘Apocalypse Now’ have some line about still being in Saigon? Thirty five years on, he might have had a (different) point.
My son has just gone ‘volunteering’ at a school in Ecuador, actually in the Amazon rainforest, and, for the first time ever, throughout his many travels, he is off our radar except for an (unpredictable) hour or so of Internet each week. This, we anticipated – but not Gatwick.
We were flying to the Isle of Man to visit mother-in-law. With the optimism of nerds, we took our iPads with us, even though we knew full well that mother-in-law doesn’t do computers, or broadband, or wifi, or anything like it. On our first morning (the day before yesterday), we trotted along to Manx Telecom in Douglas, where a very helpful salesperson fitted us up with Manx Telecom SIMs, but, Dear Reader, back in mother-in-law’s place, in the suburbs of Douglas, the SIMs worked at two speeds only… dead slow and stop.
Oh dear, oh dear. Yes, I know, I’m a terrible nerd and I really should be able to Do Without the Internet for three days. In reality, it was a minor inconvenience, although I did – as always – have Work To Do. So, here I am writing, using Pages, at nearly 2am, hoping to upload… soon, please… and thinking with the clarity which comes in the dead of night.
Not everybody has the internet. I should be able to tell you how many people in the world do, and how many don’t – but I can’t do that, for reasons which will now have become obvious. What I do know is that, even in the developed world, large demographics don’t: many of the elderly, the destitute, people who live in remote places and people who live in awkward places which transmitter towers can’t reach. Free newspapers on the Isle of Man advertise an excellent wifi service through Wi-Mann, with free access available from about forty shops and other locations on the island. (One of them is Ronaldsway airport, from where I intend to upload this post tomorrow.)
As a society, we ignore – at our peril – the substantial number of people who do not use internet, even though they are not cool… seeing as they don’t live in the South East, live in the country, aren’t in work, live behind mountains and might be elderly. And – writers beware – they could be our readers. So, do continue subbing to print mags and, more importantly, keep reading and buying them so that they stay in circulation and in print.
Post-script: I am now sitting at Ronaldsway airport. The Manx Telecom 3G now works perfectly, but not the much-trumpeted airport wifi, which is ‘disabled’ on my phone, so I cannot upload on to my blog the photos I took this morning. Oh, for home and BT.