The other day I could not access the Internet from a coffee shop, so I took a screen-capture of what went wrong. I'm trying to acquire some video production skills for teaching, so today I looked for some CC-licensed images on flickr and turned the experience into a complete video (just over 1 minute).
Ubiquitous internet access is still in that awkward adolescent phase. Many mobile professionals and geeks now rely on it heavily, but access is never as straightforward as it should be.
At Starbucks I'm entitled to two free hours of access from AT&T after using my card. This shop has two providers, but neither one works. AT&T rejects my login with an error message branded by T-Mobile – how's that for collaboration. But I know have the correct credentials because I can log in to AT&T to access my account – I even updated my mailing address.
The lesson of ubiquitous internet is that it costs more to meter than it's actually worth. Try to restrict individual users and suddenly you need a whole infrastructure for tech support and credit card processing and refunds. Bryant Park in Manhattan offers free wireless, and it costs them less per month than they spend on trash bags. When a cafe offers unimpeded wireless to its customers, it nearly always works.