Vento Cafe, Glyfada in Athens: Booting up my MacBook Air I discovered Vento have a new, free and open wifi connection. This is new since my last visit a month ago and seems to be part of a growing trend towards free broadband in bars and cafes throughout Greece.
In Britain, free places are few and far between; and most of those cafes or pubs that claim to be free make you register so they can bombard you with emails. Sometimes you are forced to go through the rigmarole of registering every time you want to use the wifi.
The most annoying "free service" I have come across is that at the new Westfield Mall in West London. Here you are encouraged to log on to the Westfield web-site and appear to be getting free wifi. But you cannot navigate out of the site, so it remains a bit of advertising and an annoyance for anyone wishing to connect to the internet.
In Britain, too, the coffee chains, such as Starbucks, Caffe Nero and Costa, all have pay-as-you-go systems run by one or other of the major telecons. So if you are in Starbucks you need a subscription to T-Mobile. In Caffe Nero it's BT Openzone. Good news, though, is that Starbucks have now signed up with BT Openzone but I'm not sure whether this is exclusive or in addition to the T-Mobile service. This is ideal for iPhone users because BT access comes free with the O2 contract in Britain.
Yes all these various contracts can be expensive, and no one in their right minds would pay the exorbitant hourly charges if they don't have a monthly subscription. Trouble is, to ensure coverage everywhere, you need several subscriptions. It is actually cheaper to take out a monthly 3G data card contract so you are completely independent.
Unfortunately many businesses, including hotels, see internet access as a means of earning money instead of a way of attracting customers. They are happy to subcontract to the likes of T-Mobile and take their cut. So it is very encouraging that the trend in Greece seems to be to allowing free broadband access if you buy a coffee or drink. This is as it should be, and as it will be soon everywhere.