Say Goodnight Gogo
By Robert McGarvey
The news is what I did not do on my last three flights: I did not connect to Gogo, did not go online, and did not regret that I didn’t. In fact I exited the planes feeling better and smarter than if I had been online.
I have been compulsively going online inflight essentially since the service debuted. But I have been online with the Internet since 1985 (and had the 300 baud modem to prove it, even owned an acoustic coupler). I won’t stay at hotels with bad Internet – and yes there are still some – this is just part of my expectations wherever I go.
My inflight Internet addiction was abetted by a stack of free passes, acquired with the purchase of various Chromebooks. I rarely – maybe never – paid for inflight Internet access.
But now I am out of free Gogo passes and, faced with shelling out my own cash (as little as $16 for a day pass), I am keeping my wallet in my pocket and not signing in.
It’s not about the money. It’s about the speed, or lack thereof, of inflight Internet. I love this WIRED headline: “American Airlines Sues Gogo Over God-Awful Inflight Internet.”
Message boards are overrun with laments about Gogo. That just is fact.
American withdrew its suit but only after Gogo told the airline it could sign with a faster, better provider if it found one.
I am still waiting.
As are you, I’m sure.
But, meantime, I surrendered to the reality that the Gogo service sucks and so on a roundtrip to Las Vegas (short flights from Phoenix), I read the delightful The Millionaire and the Bard, about Henry Folger’s obsessive – but so important – collection of Shakespeare first folios and his later construction of a library to house his vast collection of Shakespeare related materials.
Yesterday on a flight from Phoenix to Newark, I read Get Carter, the noir British novel that spawned the Michael Caine film.
Call this throwback. Before I had Gogo – and the river of the emails it brought me inflight – I always packed good reading matter for a flight. And then I stopped. I began handling dozens of emails. I even responded – probably because I had the time – to emails I never would have answered had I been at my desk.
On the flight back to Phoenix I am considering my options for reading – and, fortunately, I have hundreds of unread books on my Kindle app on a Nexus tablet.
I don’t think I am alone. On the flight to Newark I looked at what other passengers were doing. Some were playing games on tablets or phones. Others were watching movies on tablets or laptops. Some were reading, on Kindles or tablets.
I did not seeing anyone connected to the Internet.
I’m sure some were – but just maybe the novelty has worn off and the thrill is gone. Five years ago it was fun to think, I am at 30,000 feet and sending this email. Now that seems so, well, compulsive.
When I land I find I am more relaxed and – at least after reading the Folger book – more thoughtful, than if I had waded through so many emails, most of which I honestly don’t need to read, no less respond to. But inflight I do both when I am connected. Snip the cord and I don’t miss it.
Will we pick up Internet usage if speeds improve? No question about that. When inflight speed rivals that of the typical home or office, we will flock back to it (or to it for those who have managed to ignore Gogo so far). Already, Virgin America has announced inflight WiFi speeds that rival home Internet.
Of course that is tempting.
Except maybe we shouldn’t succumb.
There may be other – compelling – reasons to avoid inflight connectivity besides slow speeds. Read this reporter’s chilling account of getting hacked while using Gogo. Is this possible? You bet. Any public WiFi – the kind found in hotels and also, apparently, inflight – is a hacker’s playground and Gogo, it turns out, recommends that if accessing sensitive stuff, always use a VPN, which may well impose even slower access speeds when connecting inflight.
Or maybe the simpler thing is, don’t go online inflight, not until both speed and security improve.