Thank you Google for the SLOOOW Internet

Pingdom’s management team recently visited Boston, USA, for some meetings. On their way back they had some time left over at the airport and decided to get some work done. Nicely enough, Google is currently offering everyone free Wi-Fi at a large number of US airports, including the Logan International Airport in Boston.
So, free Wi-Fi. Sounds great, right?
The problem is that the quality of the Internet connection that our colleagues got resembled something you might get in a third world country. Downloading anything but the smallest email file attachments took forever, surfing the Web was slow and unresponsive.
After swearing over the slow-as-molasses Internet connection, they decided to run an Internet speed test to see how fast the connection actually was. Here are the results:

As you can see, a download speed of 0.07 Mb/s and an upload speed of 0.12 Mb/s. Almost as bad as the old days of dial-up modems, in other words. Hardly what you’d call broadband access.
This is all pretty ironic considering Google’s focus on speed for everything Internet.

Over capacity

Google is sponsoring existing Wi-Fi hotspots on already existing infrastructure from other providers, and it’s blatantly obvious that at least the hotspot our guys were using wasn’t up to the task. It simply couldn’t handle the load. We suspect there are plenty of other travelers with similar, frustrating experiences at various airports across the US.
The funny thing here is that by making airport Wi-Fi free for everyone, and apparently not upping capacity, Google has essentially crippled access for everyone instead. No one is getting a good connection. If Google weren’t sponsoring the Wi-Fi access, fewer would be using it and performance would be better. People who are ready to pay for decent Internet access while waiting for their flight, like our colleagues, can’t.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving, at 0.07 Mb/s.
We don’t mean to be ungrateful. It’s great that Google is sponsoring Internet access for all travelers, but we suspect that in this case Google isn’t delivering the kind of quality they’d like to. The company may be less than happy with some of the Wi-Fi providers they are sponsoring.
As you know, time is money, and this time “free” cost too much.
(Of course, this was just our experience, and the situation may be much better at other places and at other times.)


  1. you should learn the facts before writing an article blaming “google” for something that is not their problem
    google does NOT provide the wireless infrastructure in the airports or in-flight
    if you had taken the time to research you would understand
    Q. Who is powering this service?
    We are working with Boingo, Advanced Wireless Group, Electronic Media Systems as well as numerous airports that provide wireless services themselves.
    in other words, google just partnered with the networks that do, and in other words, “footing the bill”

    1. @ralp: We did our research. It’s even clearly stated in the post: “The company [Google] may be less than happy with some of the Wi-Fi providers they are sponsoring.”

  2. @jjss: You have a point, but you may also be missing the point we were trying to make.
    The Google offer uses already existing airport wi-fi, which is usually not scaled to handle this amount of use. Now that it’s free, everyone with a laptop, an iPod, an Android phone, and so on, will use it. This bogs the entire connection down for everyone (congestion!), even for those who might really need a fast connection (for business purposes, for example) and would normally get this by paying for access. That is the problem. A connection that normally works fine, is now congested.

  3. Let me get this straight, aren’t there any paid connection as well in the airport? If they are, you cant blame a free service, if thats the only option, then yes, you have a valid point, some people would prefer to pay one and get faster access then having to use that free slow link. Also, correct me if im wrong but it shows Verizon in the Speedtest, even if Google is just the sponsor, the problem would be with Verizon. Anyway that speed is not as bad, I cannot imagine why you cant surf or download emails with that connection, it works fine for that, it doesn’t if you need to Youtube, downloads, etc. If its just email and browsing I can assure you I have used lower speed before and you can always use something like Opera Turbo which will proxy the content trough a high speed connection.

  4. The bartenders were so busy from someone buying everyone in the bar a free round that it took me 10 minutes to get a refill. I would have been happy to pay for my own drink if I could have gotten it in 2 minutes! How dare they buy everyone a round?
    The Interstate freeways and highways in the cities near me are overloaded. The government should feel ashamed of itself for how many cars are using the roads.
    Makes about as much sense as your whiny article. Go find some real news to post about.

  5. @Dislikes…: You forgot one thing to your bartender analogy: To be able to get everyone beer, he is mixing it with water.
    Btw, we aren’t whining. We’re making an observation. You may not agree with that observation, but that is of course your prerogative.

  6. Are You sure? Is not a Google fault, please. In the general sense the average speed/cost ratio in USA is near 5 times higher than Europe, and ten times than Korea and Japan for the same price.
    In Korea since 2 years ago the cellular speed is 100Mbits/sec and is a natural thing have video conference and so on. The fault? The network here Is so old near 5 years behind. And of course I am not related with Google.
    Some day Google, who knows bring to us free WiFi at comfortable speed.
    Regards, Savi

  7. The airports can’t just upgrade their whole bandwidth and number of WiFi hotspots from one day to the next, just because Google would be sponsoring a couple months worth of free WiFi.
    My guess is that if this experiment is a success, if millions of people log onto this free WiFi, Google could then continue to sponsor free WiFi at low bitrates and a small fee for people who need prioritized higher bandwidth access, for example $1 per Gygabyte at a certain faster 10mbit/s download and upload or so.
    Free WiFi can be well managed if users are asked to log-in using a FON or Google account, and then simply have a system through the DNS server that monitors bandwidth usage and any user abusing the bandwidth (downloading or uploading too much) would then get a page that load saying something like “Please don’t use that much bandwidth, if you want extra dedicated bandwidth, please pay $1 per GB”.

  8. I’m a Pingdom customer and I’m offended by your remark “the quality of the Internet connection that our colleagues got resembled something you might get in a third world country”, since I currently live in Brazil.
    FIY, I enjoy a 10mb/s internet connection and around here broadband has a market penetration of about 80% within internet users (around 60M). Not much different from the US (I know it first hand, since I used to live in DC).
    BTW, the term “third world” is pretty much useless after the Soviet Union fell apart. It was loosely thrown around by politicians and journalists and based entirely on non-measurable characteristics of a nation.

  9. @Rod: Apologies if this offended you. That was not our intention and perhaps we should have used another phrasing. What we meant was regions where the Internet is poorly developed.

  10. Apologies accepted. I just wanted to clear up the notion that all “third world” countries are the same internet-wise. Its not fair to Argentina an Brazil to be thrown in the same bucket as Nigeria, where you’re lucky if you can get 90 minutes of uninterrupted power.
    Anyways, Pingdom rocks. Love your product guys!

  11. ” … I’m a Pingdom customer and I’m offended by your remark “the quality of the Internet connection that our colleagues got resembled something you might get in a third world country”, since I currently live in Brazil. …”
    Brazil is not, and never has been, a “Third World country”.
    Brazil is referred to as a “Developing country” which will have a certain amount of all the perks the “Developed countries” have, along with an established and growing middle class and a healthy growing economy. The main nations that lead the developing country category are Brazil, Russia, India and China.
    A “Third World country” is a nation where infrastructure is not capable of supporting development unaided, and where the economy is characterized by little, no, or regressive development, little competitive businesses preferably including independent domestic players and publicly traded corporations and no sustained economic growth pattern.
    Brazil, with a thriving middle class and an expanding economy, doesn’t fit the definition.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and not published in real time. All comments that are not related to the post will be removed.required