Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Internet Dives

easyInternetcafe: Rubbish

I’ve had a bit of trouble with the internet recently, hence the lack of posts for the past couple of weeks. Our contract with AOL has expired, and we’ve been phoning around trying to get a better deal with other companies, but all of them reckon it’ll take at least 10 days to get connected again, and in the meantime I’m stuck with internet cafes to get connected. Which is where the problem lies…

I had no idea internet cafes in London were so bad. Admittedly I was spoilt with some truly luxurious internet places in Japan (places where you could order free ice cream whilst getting a back massage – see my Japan blog), but getting connected in London is a truly abysmal experience. Even the internet cafes in Bolivia were better – they were cheaper for one thing, and the PCs were a much higher spec, despite the slow download speeds.

My first port of call was the easyInternetcafé on Oxford Street (the obvious place to go really, you can’t miss the garish orange signs and flocks of young foreigners hanging around outside) but of course their connection happened to be down that day. I then spent the best part of an hour traipsing round Soho looking for another café, only to end up in a run-down little place with the slowest, most dilapidated PCs I’ve ever seen. I spent a fruitless 20 minutes trying to connect to Gmail, and still got charged a quid even though I never actually got to check my emails. Is this really the best London has to offer?

Over the past week I’ve ventured out to a few more cafes around London, but it’s pretty much the same story wherever you go: most "cafes" are just a few old PCs tucked into the back of a newsagents, and offer little more than (very) basic web surfing. A lot of places didn’t even have computers with CD drives, and most PCs were only running Windows 98, which meant I couldn’t even access some websites. The easyInternetcafé by Trafalgar Square was probably the biggest disappointment, especially since it charges 2 pounds an hour, compared with 1 pound an hour pretty much everywhere else. I was expecting something a little better for my money, but it was actually a bit more basic than most newsagent "cafes".

Even getting onto a computer at easyInternet presented a challenge. I didn’t have 2 pounds in change for the credit machine, and of course it didn’t accept notes, so I asked the assistant for help.

"We don’t have any change," he said, "You’ll have to buy something from Subway."

"But I don’t want to buy anything from Subway," I replied, having recently eaten breakfast.

"Well it’s the only way to get change," he shrugged (a trifle louchely I thought).

"I see. Thanks a lot for your help", I said. He wavered for a second, wondering whether my thanks was genuine, or whether it was barely-disguised sarcasm pulled taut over a cauldron of rage. He seemed to think it was the former. It wasn’t.

So please, if you know of any decent internet cafes in London, preferably ones that don’t force you to buy fast food to get online, then let me know.


Anonymous Trevski said...

OI! So you're still living in London & we haven't been for a beer yet!

Bloody hell man.

Gime a call. Now.

10:15 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I once went to the easyInternet on Liverpool Street in Sydney and walked to the back 'gaming' section (where it was quieter and had comfier chairs), only to find a dishevelled-looking bloke playing with himself. All the previous times I'd been going there, it was just to check my email! If I'd only known...

10:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Lewis, thought I'd check your blog seeing as we may be catching up this weekend through Mary!
regarding the net, the best thing to do is go lap top in hand to a local cafe with free wireless. You have to buy a cup of tea or something but it works out the same proce ish, you get to use your own lap top and it's generally a nicer environment.
Sarah G

11:48 am  

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