Last weekend, I got forced to pay caravan park rates for Internet access — and while it wasn’t the end of the world, I wasn’t happy about it. How much have you been forced to spend to ensure a connection?
I spent the weekend revisiting Nambucca Heads on the NSW mid-North coast, which was one of my holiday haunts as a child. I figured that Internet access would be a no-brainer, since I had a Next G dongle and I wasn’t heading miles away from civilisation. While I know all too well that even Next G isn’t a guaranteed connection, I’d done testing in this area during the Off The Rails experiment last year and gotten connections on some pretty isolated beaches, so I figured I’d be sweet, if not working at maximum speeds.
In this assumption, I was entirely wrong. My Next G dongle could not scare up a signal anywhere in the caravan park I was staying. It's clearly not a well-covered area; my BlackBerry, which runs on Optus, was able to get a GPRS connection, but only when I sat outside my cabin. That was still better than Telstra was managing.
Nambucca is one of the hilliest coastal towns you're ever likely to encounter, and I'm guessing that is a major factor. But I needed Internet access on my laptop to get a couple of crucial work tasks done, and that meant I didn't have a lot of options if I wanted to stay on site rather than trekking all the way into town and hoping the Next G options might be better.
My caravan park actually offered park-wide Wi-Fi, so that's what I used -- but only after gasping at the prices. A half-hour connection was $6; $10 got me a whole hour. Even more astonishingly, no matter how many hours I purchased, there was a 200MB download limit for any 24-hour period. I appreciate that the service doesn't want tourists endlessly downloading torrents, but 200MB is a really miserly allowance, especially if you're going to be in one place for a week.
Because of my reliance on Next G in recent years with the occasional failover to McDonald's, I haven't actually paid for casual Internet access in quite a while. I reckon $6 for 30 minutes is pretty extreme, but maybe I need to get out more. What's the worst recent example you've encountered? Share it in the comments.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman very rarely stays in caravan parks. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.