Journalists are often invited to attend various events inside and outside the country. This month of May was particularly busy for me, as I was practically on the road almost the entire time.
Early this month, I had the chance to go to Los Angeles and San Francisco in United States. We all know that the U.S. is the world's economic superpower and is home to some of the largest technology companies. But when it comes to Wi-Fi access, Uncle Sam needs a lot of catching up to do. Asia, it seems, is the one setting the lead.
Take the airports, for example. On my way to LA, the plane that I took had a brief layover at the Hong Kong International Airport. While waiting for my connecting flight, I was able to connect my laptop to the free Wi-Fi service available in the airport. That's a far cry from the Los Angeles International Airport, better known as LAX, where one has to pay for wireless access.
In LA, I stayed at the Wilshire Grand Hotel, which, thankfully, offered free Wi-Fi access in every room. But that's probably because the place was owned by a Korean company, which wisely considered the convenience it can give to its guests even if the structure was already a bit old.
That's not the case with The Westin Hotel on Third and Market streets in downtown San Francisco, where I was billeted for an event a week later. The structure was recently renovated (it was formerly the Argent Hotel), and had a stunning view of the city from my room. But Wi-Fi access was an anomalous US$20 per day! That sucked.
Upon my return in the Philippines, I was again sent on a trip--this time in Mindanao, the country's southernmost region. I first visited Iligan, an industrial city that is home to the Philippines' largest steel and cement factories. I was there on the invitation of a non-profit group, the Foundation for IT Education, for the inauguration of a computer laboratory for teacher training.
We stayed at a small, but decent hostel located inside the sprawling campus of Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT), where the computer facility was located. Since we were inside a state university that was situated in a second-tier city, in a remote part of the country at that, I thought it was unlikely we could have any Wi-Fi access.
But, much to my surprise, the whole hostel was a hotspot and one that provided very decent data speed. Later in the evening, we had dinner at a restaurant that was also a free Wi-Fi zone. The bar and restaurant where we had dessert also provided free wireless access.
After Iligan, we drove one-and-a-half hours by land to the coastal city of Cagayan de Oro. A beautiful country club subdivision, located on a mountain ridge, was our home for three days and we were also for an IT event. Although there was no Wi-Fi in the cottages, the wireless access in the main clubhouse was blazing fast.
Indeed, some of the best things in the world are free.