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ATPM 16.08
August 2010



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by Mark Tennent,

Laissez-Faire Wee-Fee

We are just back from staying in an idyllic 13th century manor house in Le Mesnil Jourdain, Normandy. So much gîte for so little money, IKEA meets antiques. And it even included “wee-fee if we could log onto the Negeer,” said the nice French lady.

With six feet of solid stone walls and 50 feet separating us from the Netgear router, we congregated round the windows, trying to make connections on our iPhones and lappies. In the end, we found spots in the garden where the signal was strongest and shade from the blazing sun the deepest.

We eventually got a signal when the wind blew in the right direction—this air current being mainly goat farts, as the whole manor house commune is surrounded by trebuchet-proof walls. Whereas goats roam the inner-fields, eating everything they can reach, are only separated from us by strands of electric fencing.

What surprised us is that the router’s Wi-Fi network is wide open, as is another’s nearby. When we left the commune and ventured further afield, we found many private routers open for anyone to log on. In small French towns such as Louviers, where the only thing to do on Sunday is a down-market Tabac, a boulangerie or one of the few “Continental” grocers, there are free public wee-fee networks as well as open private ones. At least in the town many had some form of access control.

We aren’t sure whether this laissez-faire attitude to Internet connection is by accident or just part of French life, but it was very welcome.

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