Wi-Fi With A Side Of Fries

Back when I was a freelancer I spent a large portion of my time trying to find good cafes and coffee shops with free wi-fi so that I could get work done while I was out. Being stuck in the apartment all day while dealing with clients quickly became untenable, so the instant I had a new laptop that could handle the programs I used I went off in search of good food and free wi-fi.

New York City is the kind of place you’d expect to find plenty of cafes and coffee shops with free wi-fi and that’s true, for the most part. Apparently it pales in comparison to Seattle — not surprising. There are plenty of issues, though. Like entire neighborhoods bereft of free wi-fi and even some places without anything resembling a cafe. There are places you’d think had free wi-fi, but no! They charge you, instead. Exorbitant prices. There’s a Starbucks every 5 feet below 135th, but is their wi-fi free? Not exactly. And the well-known spots are, of course, well-known, and thus are packed full of people who show up at 9am and don’t leave until the places closes at the ridiculously early hour of… 10pm.

Cafes that close before 1am should be banned in this city.

Anyway, this is all an extremely rambly way to get to the reason I’m making this post. Last week McDonald’s announced that in January they would be offering free wi-fi at the locations where they currently offer non-free wi-fi. This comes just a little while after Barnes & Noble started offering free wi-fi and Borders followed suit in order to keep up. Just thinking about the numbers of B&N’s plus Borders plus McDonald’s in this city my heart starts to go pitter patter because, well, there’s barely a foot of space below 125th street that isn’t covered by free wi-fi.

It’s like some kind of beautiful dream.

Except. Most of that wi-fi is from McDonald’s. And, well, I don’t really want to spend any time in McDonald’s, much less a whole day. Then again, in my neighborhood free wi-fi is sparse, and the cafe around the corner from me is wonderful but has horrendous, horrendous seating. Even more horrendous than McDonald’s. So if I want to get out of the house and get some work done, where am I better off?

This is, of course, just a gimmick to get more people into McD’s and it will most likely work. I’m not the only freelancing writer in need of outside wi-fi. Here’s the thing I wonder: how long will it be before every McDonald’s in the city looks like a Starbucks? A sea of laptops, nary a seat to be found, and obnoxious people complaining about the quality of their latte.

Oh yeah, this is a glorious new era.

  • Rachel Swirsky

    Interesting. Where I am, all the cafes are shutting off their wifi. Grrr.

    • K T Bradford

      HEINOUS. There’s one cafe I really love but they shut off wi-fi on the weekends, just when I am likely to be using it. Grrr indeed.

  • Jackie M.

    Paul Bocuse once declared McDonald’s french fries the world’s best, and the egg McMuffins are and always have been real food. The ice creams are still good, and no-fat to boot… and McD’s introduced yogurt parfaits and salads in an attempt to get “healthy”. The parfaits are too sweet, but otherwise not too shabby. So if you gotta spend lunch at a McDonalds, you can find a few real food items on the menu.

    (But their fancy-pants “improved” coffee is terrible! It’s like coffee flavored with coffee ester. Complaining the lattes is totally in order.)

  • This city is so bad for free wifi! It’s incredibly frustrating.

    I have been spending my days parked in B&N cafes. I didn’t realize Borders had followed suit.

  • The ideal, clearly would be a 24-hour cafe that happens to be next door to a McDonald’s with free wifi.

    • K T Bradford

      I think someone on Yelp has a list of 24-hour joints. We just have to cross-reference with a list of McD’s locations and we’re in business.