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FPWC (free public wifi consultant) reporting

Published: 
Monday, December 16, 2013
The shaded pavilion at Scarborough esplanade, Tobago. PHOTO: ELSPETH DUNCAN

I sit here at the table in my “office” taking time out from uploading some photographs to take in surrounding sights, sounds and scents: the echo of children’s feet as they scamper toward KFC, the grind of a blender, piped mall music, low buzz of voices, smell of disinfectant, young man cleaning tables, chairs scraping as he moves them aside, idle squeaks of rubber soles on shiny floor as bored child in blue school uniform waits for mother to make purchase in nearby jewelry store. 

 

I look back down at my laptop and observe: a mere 45.06MB of 93.14MB, uploading in more time than it would usually take. The free public wifi (FPW) is crawling today in Lowlands Mall. Two tourists, seeing me working at my laptop, come and ask what various people in the mall have approached and asked me on occasion: “Do you get free wifi here?” Of course. Their faces light up, possibly anticipating the pleasure of uploading sunny beach photos to Facebook to tease their city-dwelling friends back home. 

 

When I moved to Tobago in October 2012 and went to live in Goodwood on the southeast coast, I didn’t know I would become an expert in sourcing free public wifi. Goodwood, approximately 20 minutes from Scarborough, heading in the direction of Speyside, is peaceful and unhurried, except for cars that often screech perilously around the bends. 

 

My apartment, perched on a height  at the edge of the Atlantic and nestled amidst trees, came naturally equipped with constant surround-sound waves and birdsong, a front-seat view of sunrise and an impressive chandelier of stars that had little or no light pollution to compete with their brilliance. Such a place could make anyone feel that they are on an extended retreat...not only from the “civilised” world but, often, also from the virtual world made accessible by the Internet. 

 

It was the unpredictable, sometimes non-existent Internet signal in the area that drove me to seek and discover hotspots that were oases in the internet desert. For those who are ever seeking free wifi in Tobago, below are a few points on my two most-frequented FPW locations—Lowlands Mall and the Scarborough Esplanade. The mall...ideal for rainy days or for those who enjoy air conditioning.

 

Wifi availability and strength: A selection of reliable internet connections, all password-free: bzone, Haagen Dazs, Linksys, Digicel. Sit anywhere in the mall and send/receive e-mails, surf the net and conduct Skype meetings with few or no glitches. Signal strongest in/near the food court. Ambience and amenities: Pleasant tropical décor with a modern twist, air-conditioning, consistent but generally undisruptive mall noises, variety of fast-food outlets, clean washrooms, diverse shops and  MovieTowne.

 

Seating: High or low chairs at small but comfortable round tables. Parking: Large car park, few cars. Finding a spot is always easy. The car park/pavilion at the Scarborough Esplanade...ideal for those seeking an FPW experience with an outdoor flavour.
Wifi strength: Consistently strong for general use, inclusive of Skype—but wavers and sometimes disconnects during calls.    

 

Ambience and amenities: Ocean view, refreshing sea breeze, various creole food sheds for an assortment of eats and drinks, constant but undisruptive hum of traffic and, sometimes, wafting background music or amplified religious conventions. 

 

Seating/accommodation: Option of open-air concrete seat and table sets (minus umbrellas), shady pavilion with benches and (for those who come with and stay in their cars) padded seating, air conditioning and personal music selection
Parking: Secure (guard on site) and small but, in my experience, always an available spot.

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