Thursday, June 26, 2008
By Dave Struzzi
For some, six hours of unchecked emails can result in an inbox that’s more crowded than a Japanese subway car during rush hour. As a New York City representative for companies based in Silicon Valley, I frequently find myself on flights to and from both coasts, on this six-hour communications black hole. Some might argue that this void is a good way to “disconnect” from the pervasiveness of the Internet and “relax,” but for those dependent on email availability, it can be a nightmare. (And who can ‘relax’ on a planes filled with shrinking legroom, bad movies, and choruses of crying babies anyway?) After all, what’s the use of owning a Smartphone and laptop that can access email only if it’s tethered to the ground?
It’s all come to an end, however. Finally, my savior has arrived. American Airlines, Jet Blue and others have begun to introduce in-flight Wifi to planes. Initial reception to the in-flight Wifi service has been very positive, and it’s about time. It’s interesting to see that for every leap in wireless data technology, the airline industry was notoriously missing from the mix. We could send information from the earth to the moon, but not to planes a few miles up?
Offering the Internet on planes will be a boon to many in the communications industry, but it might turn out to be a mixed blessing for the average traveler. In-flight Wifi will undoubtedly bring with it VoIP and the ability to make in-flight calls the norm. As much as I like staying up-to-date on emails, this might be a difficult tradeoff. I can already hear the incessant chatter.
As eager as I am to try this new Wifi service, I think we sometimes take for granted how fortunate we are to be able to send email through the air. In the public relations industry, being agile and responsive with correspondence is critical. You snooze, you lose. It makes you wonder how PR existed before computers and the Internet were commonplace and word processing software was there to change your “hte” to “the.” Imagine typing a press release on a typewriter, getting to that final character, and hitting the wrong key. Or, (gasp) snail mailing or faxing that press release to 300 reporters. Need same day distribution? You had better know some good carrier pigeons.
Though the idea of working with carrier pigeons intrigues me somewhat, I think I’ll stick with my Wifi, wherever I can get it.