This may seem odd, coming from someone that spends most of his days designing, implementing, running, and troubleshooting Wi-Fi systems, but yes, there are some people that really need to turn off their Wi-Fi.
I know where most of you think I am going with this. You think I am talking about those people in multi-tenant buildings who use channel 9, or the location that uses 40 MHz wide channels in 2.4 GHz.
I am not. There are approximately 2.5 million blog posts, white papers, videos, conferences, classes, certification tests, vendors, and drunken arguments in bars over those topics and this won’t be one of them.
What I am talking about is the location that I just visited a few days ago for an early dinner. Let me set the stage for my rant, and then this might make more sense.
It was a Thursday and my wife and I had set up a time to meet our son for dinner. He’s 25 and doesn’t live at home, so it’s something we do to try and see each other a little more. The place we were meeting at was in-between his work and home, so he wanted to meet on his way home so he didn’t have to backtrack. That’s cool, I have no problem with eating earlier to avoid the crowds and then I can relax the rest of the evening.
Throwing a wrinkle into this plan was a construction crew at my place of employment who were digging in some new water lines and hit an electrical line that was supposed to be 30 feet to the east of where they were digging. I don’t blame those guys, the person who came out to survey the line and mark it so they didn’t hit it was off by 30 feet. They were digging outside of the place identified, thinking they were safe, when in fact, they were on top of the electric line.
Technology can do some pretty cool stuff, running without power isn’t one of them.
Anyways, I was the on-call person so it was my job to verify and ensure that once power was restored all of the network gear came back on line and was functional. In what has to be a blow to my boss, I decided that with a laptop and Wi-Fi, I didn’t have to sit at home to get the call that power was restored, I could do it from anywhere! That is why at 5 pm we arrived at the chosen restaurant and met my son for dinner.
Being a Wi-Fi guy, I am always on the look out for AP’s and always looking at the tools on my phone to see how the Wi-Fi was configured in every location I was at. This particular restaurant, who will remain nameless, sat in the corner of a parking lot, away from other buildings. This means that the Meraki system they installed had great RF to operate in. They were running dual band hardware, same SSID on both bands, and had 3 SSID’s on each radio. Each radio was also set to 20 MHz wide (not this rant) and they were on different channels! Owing to the location of the restaurant, they were able to occupy those channels by themselves, meaning very little to no CCI or ACI from outside locations. In short, a dream scenario for a Wi-Fi professional like myself, and they got pretty close to what I would call perfect.
That is, until I went to use it to make sure I could remote in if the power was restored at my work while we were eating.
I got an IP address fine, all the bits were there. Captive portal kinda came up, and it was a simple click through (again, a rant for a different day). It was then, by reflex almost, that I ran a speed test. I got 1 Mbps down and 900 Kbps up.
Why, for the love of all that is holy in Wi-Fi, is this the speed you were giving me?!?!?!?!? The place was practically empty so it wasn’t a channel utilization thing. I’ve run enough tests on different vendors doing rate limiting that I can spot rate limiting just by the way the speed test performs. Why go through all the trouble of installing Wi-Fi and paying someone to run the captive portal for you if all you are going to do is throttle me so much I can’t use it?
You might as well turn off your Wi-Fi.
It was at that point I turned off my Wi-Fi and went about the business of enjoying dinner with the family. I knew I could do that because I also had a cellular hotspot along with my laptop so if I needed to use Wi-Fi, I knew I could use mine and ignore the restaurant’s Wi-Fi. Of course, in a little bit when that place loaded up, and other people like me came in, they would probably do the same thing, causing enough CCI and ACI and management overhead that Wi-Fi would become useless, before the WAN made it useless. Two useless doesn’t make a useful.
We finished dinner without the call that power was restored, went home and spent the rest of the evening not getting that call so the rate limited Wi-Fi at the restaurant was a non-factor, for now. It does, however, paint a bigger picture I wished more establishments would understand.
In todays world, Wi-Fi is necessity, no longer a cool parlor trick. If, as an establishment, you don’t want to provide Wi-Fi, that’s your call, and I support it. However, if you chose to provide Wi-Fi, then at least do it right. If you chose to not do it right?
Please, turn off your Wi-Fi!