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This article was published on June 17, 2021

Bad hotel Wi-Fi is a comforting reminder of the old world

*plays air guitar to the 'Bad to the Bone' riff*

Bad hotel Wi-Fi is a comforting reminder of the old world
Callum Booth
Story by

Callum Booth

Editor of Plugged by TNW

Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He w Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He writes about gear, gadgets, and apps — with a particular focus on Apple — and also makes the occasional odd video. Basically, he's halfway between an abrasive gadget nerd and thinky art boy.

This is adapted from Plugged In, TNW’s bi-weekly newsletter on gear and gadgets. Subscribe to it here.

Uh oh, watch out: Plugged In has just slid into the lobby all naked and greased up. Let’s move on from that childish image and kick off today’s lecture with a boring, grown-up statement: technology is only as good as its implementation.

Take phones, for example. You can have the most delicious and crisp display on a device, but if it cracks easily, then it’s bad implementation. The industry is filled with examples of this. Just think about Samsung’s foldables or Apple’s butterfly keyboard.

And that’s just the hardware. Think of all the awful online sign-up systems you’ve been forced to wade through over the years.

What connects these experiences are that they’re all things that should work on paper, but don’t. Reality, friends, is a harsh genital-smacker.

Don’t be fooled in thinking it’s just tech companies that struggle with this: other sectors sin too. And the most blasphemous of technological implementations in the land?

Easy: hotel Wi-Fi.

scene from The Shining with Jack riding a scooter down a coridoor
Imagine how much more terrifying the Overlook Hotel would’ve been if it had bad internet on top of blood-filled elevators.

How did I arrive at this conclusion? Well, the world is slowly creaking back open. And this led to me actually leaving the country (?) on a work trip (??) to a conference (???) in Barcelona (????). Humblebrag? Certainly. Do I have a point? Kinda.

While I was at the conference, there were points where I desperately needed to work (read: watch Netflix) in my hotel room.

ALAS — instead of phasing out to some flashing primary colors, I was delivered but spinning balls of hell.


A spinning loading circle representing the horror of hotel wi-fi
This is my ‘Nam.

For a brief moment, I believed that I’d just gotten used to my home’s excellent Wi-Fi.

“You’re just being unfair to the hotel,” I told myself in the bathroom mirror, lights flickering like a haunted bus station.

“Okay,” my reflection responded, “name a hotel you’ve been to with good internet.”

My mouth flapped like a guppy. I was stumped. I couldn’t think of one.

Much like James Joyce novels, I’m sure good hotel Wi-Fi exists — but I’ve never come across one. Nor do I expect to.


James Joyce eating a sandwich, proving that bad hotel wi-fi will always exist.
This is easily the most entertaining thing Joyce has ever done and I think it’s a… bread advert? Can’t even be bothered to check.


I’m sure there are logical reasons why hotel Wi-Fi is so uniformly bad (probably something to do with selling internet upgrades and making more cash?) — but I don’t wanna hear it.

And there’s a good reason for that. Because… I’m glad the hotel Wi-Fi was shit.

There’s something spectacularly life-affirming about a hotel being effectively closed for an entire year and doing nothing to upgrade its technological capabilities. That, pals, is what a call a true slice of the old life. Nature is healing — and it feels great.

Plus, crappy internet gives me another excuse to stay home.

Did you know we have a newsletter all about consumer tech? It’s called Plugged In – and you can subscribe to it right here.

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