Wednesday, October 31

Understanding AT&T Wifi Hotspots (That Don't Really Exist)

attwifi Jacksonville Beaches
Some of you are in the same boat as me. You want the fastest internet because you work from home or have gotten rid of cable. So you might get AT&T's Fiber offering in Jacksonville. It's $80/mo the first year and then $90 a month after that. As a bonus, AT&T claims there will be wifi available to me at all kinds of locations nationwide. That's either not true or mostly in one city. My recent desire to go hang out at the beach and get some work done is a good example of the wifi not existing.


I went to the AT&T home page and found nothing about the wifi hotspots. The coverage maps are all about cellular service, not wifi. If I was a customer on a plan looking to stream content, I'd be disappointed to know that it's so hard to find any way to limit my data usage by hooking up to ATTwifi hotspots. But I'm not a cellular customer, even though I pay as much as one to have home internet.


I'm also not a business customer, and it appears AT&T might have some kind of arrangement with other wifi hotspot providers (namely Xfinity) for access to their wifi. But since I don't qualify as a business partner with AT&T, I can't really use the AT&T GNC app to connect to various hotspots. However, I can use it to see where the actual ATTwifi spots are supposed to be located. So I downloaded the app and the North American map. If you look at the photo I took of my screen, you can see all the green pins near the Beaches. That looks like a lot of free wifi. The problem is that I need to see BLUE pins for AT&T wifi. These are mostly, if not all, Xfinity. Granted, Xfinity customers don't have a choice, as the company just uses routers as guest networks as it sees fit. I don't really like that idea, that some company is making money off getting people to connect to MY router as a guest. But that's also not the point here. No AT&T wifi by the Beaches, so I can't use my Chromebook and write in the sand. Or even at a local restaurant.

Sure, you're thinking, but there's all kinds of free wifi at local businesses. I agree, but I would assume an attwifi connection would be a little more secure, since I'd have to login with my official credentials, and so would any would-be hacker. Also, it's basically promised to me as a customer. Scrolling through the map some more, and I can find the McDonald'ses and Walmarts in Jacksonville, which use a free version of attwifi. Within ten miles, there's maybe 20 attwifi hotspots among about 1,000 listed in the app. Maybe the ones at the AT&T retail stores require a login, but I doubt it.

Since I'm on the cheap Sprint plan, I can't use my phone as a hotspot. Part of my decision to go with this Kickstarter plan was that I could always access my AT&T wifi perks. Which don't exist. Then again, I don't see it in the promotional materials online anymore, so that was probably something that was talked about in years past. Here's a summary of where it stands now from a forum post:

i just online chatted for 2 HOURS with 9 different representatives, including 2 managers and NO ONE had an answer. I got a call back from a “specialist” and the call got disconnected with no call back. I am beyond frustrated. The link above does not work on my iPad or iPhone. My husband tried his PC and said it worked but showed ZERO spots in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Impossible. This feels like false advertising. WiFi spots are included with my internet plan but I have no way of finding them. Am I supposed to stumble around town in hopes of crossing paths with an elusive AT&T hot spot? I was told by 2 reps that it was available free at McDonald’s, Starbucks and other various locations. So, naturally, I want to know what the “various locations” are and how to find them! Even without AT&T, WiFi is free at McDonald’s and Starbucks (courtesy of a google partnership) so I have yet to see what added benefit AT&T is providing here. https://forums.att.com/t5/AT-T-Internet-Features/How-to-locate-AT-amp-T-Wi-Fi-Hot-Spots-by-zip-code/td-p/5196739
The short answer to anyone's question about AT&T wifi hotspots, provided to you as a AT&T customer, is NO, they do not exist. One forum post said that AT&T had claimed 17,000 of these locations existed, but I don't see evidence of that claim anymore. I guess if I want to work at the beach, I'll have to hope my cheapo Sprint "unlimited" plan can access data there. Or I'll just stay home in my loftice. At least I can stream unlimited music while I wish I was at the beach.