Of free wifi…. Kahenya’s thoughts


If you have been following debate on free wifi in counties……a guest post by @Kahenya

Most first time Western tourists in India tend to assume that a snake is charmed by the sound of the charmer’s flute. I partly blame Robert Browning’s legend, the Pied Piper of Hamelin for this effect and indeed, you would be surprised by the number of grown adults who fall prey to childrens’ anecdotes. Never mind that at any time, day or night, for next to nothing cost wise, they could open a resource like Wikipedia and confirm the actual facts. But, this is Kenya, where we waste a wonderful tool like the mind for votes and money. As I write this, I’m discussing priorities with a certain bird who owns a parrot named Sparkles, who is pointing out what is painfully obvious. This one time, I will not blame the President and his Deputy because there are other “managers” employed to ensure that our priorities stay on track. But they don’t. Food and water security, general security, health care, education, better wages for civil servants, better equipment for public facilities, better roads, cleaner public toilets and many more things are our priorities, but free WiFi? This is backed by our version of the proverbial European tourist in a pinstripe suit who constantly gets bitten by his own snake cause he does not understand the underlying principles of charming it.

I must berate the principals involved, for failing to understand a rational principle that is universal and actually very easy to get. <strong>THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS FREE WIFI</strong>. There never has been, and there never will be free WiFi. That as a concept does not exist. Its been tried by many municipals, and it has always failed, globally, for one simple reason. Cost. Don’t bother pointing out Guifi or others without thinking Fon and recognising their environment and the actual real world factors that exist.

Let me explain this in the simplest way I can for Eggbert. Someone, defined by the constitution as a legal entity, could be a human being with red blood that breathes air, or an organization like a Registered Company, NGO, SACCO, Women’s Group etc has to pay using legal tender, in many cases real money, in our case, the Kenya shilling, usually sporting the face of a late or retired President, available in paper format or metal hardware, transferable in its physical form, or using a mobile device, a cheque, an electronic service offered by a merchant provider or a bank countywide, to another legal entity for services rendered. Commerce. Isn’t it brilliant? It says that for services delivered, payment must be rendered and whether you choose to use a 56K modem or WiFi, there is <strong>ALWAYS</strong> an associated cost. Hotels, restaurants, airports and other legal entities again as defined by the constitution, offer free WiFi to their customers. But it isn’t free. While you are busy drowning yourself in worldy pleasures that again, you must pay for in some form of legal tender, they deduct a certain percentage of your bill to cover the cost of connectivity. Even if its 1 Shilling per hour per user, the shilling being legal tender for Kenya as earlier mentioned, it is still a cost that must be covered. There is not a single legal entity on Planet Earth that is willing to lay expensive infrastructure, in this case fibre optic cables, WiFi access points among other things, pay for access, salaries, other fees, taxes and so on, just so that they can willingly give free access to the masses cause they feel charitable. That is a bunch of big brown bollocks, simplified and legally defined from its Anglo-Saxon heritage as testicles. Airports deduct it from the tax they levy on your ticket. But that is only half the story.

Now let’s wade into the technical excrement that again shall be simplified. WiFi operates on 2.4GHz and 5GHz, frequencies, both are heavily used and getting scarce by the minute. This means that proper planning, and that is more than drawing a stick diagram on an iPad, must be undertaken, to ensure that everyone enjoys this finite resource without experiencing interference. Which means, as you rollout your WiFi network, you must appreciate that you are not the sole operator as well as there being enough spectrum for the hundreds of thousands of smartphones and tablets, but let’s start with the few in Kenya. Eventually it will be saturated and more frequencies will have to be made available for WiFi but until then, we deal with this. Now WiFi competes with many other technologies, like scientific research devices, wireless remote controls, legally defined as an object that controls an electronic appliance, Bluetooth that you use for your wireless headsets and for sharing media and many other variants. Sadly, the current Eggbert backed WiFi networks are so poorly rolled out, that the burn through all the spectrum, and deliver very little. The solution? Bring Canadians, legally defined as people from Canada with leaf logos on their passports, to build this failing concept of a free network, for a fee, cause believe it or not, they too believe in commerce, and know only too well how to capitalise on our ignorance. Meanwhile you award winning unemployed degree carrying Kenyans with a passport that bears a chicken that carries an axe, herded by 2 spear carrying lions acting as bodyguards cause chicken get hijacked on the highway, are just way too stupid to plan and rollout a WiFi network. Including that Indian guy with an MIT degree. And that is the height of ignorance that this free WiFi concept is bringing out.

Eggbert, you and the rest of the governors need to stop wasting Kenyans’ time with censored free WiFi that will eventually be abandoned cause of cost and poor implementation and let the Kenyans, who understand what needs to be done, do their thing. WiFi is a paid for service. I did not make that rule. You have a less than pedestrian understanding of WiFi as an enterprise and commercial solution, your motivations for the rollouts are completely wrong, you are playing off a flawed playbook, you haven’t done any realistic research and the field failure of Nakuru is resolute proof of how little you understand of your so called docket, and I think you need to get your excrement together and get out of the way. You can’t charm this snake, so accept and move on.

Disclaimer, I’m not here to defend Able’s commercial interest, that’s for the market to decide, and we are now 40k strong in commitments for our upcoming paid service. Also, this is not personal. Well, maybe a little.