This New App Might Rescue Us All From Excruciatingly Slow Wi-Fi

The Lithuania-made Rotten WiFi aims to “encourage people to fight back against poor WiFi and 3G Connections.”

Rotten WiFi’s co-founders want people to fight back against poor Wi-Fi and 3G connections.

“Our own pain,” says Arturas Jonkus on the phone from Vilnius, Lithuania, to explain why he and co-founder Paulius Lazauskas decided to create a new app called Rotten WiFi. The pair of entrepreneurs were used to suffering through terrible wireless Internet connections in their travels. But a tech conference in Dublin, where the hook-up made demos nearly impossible, was the final straw. Rotten WiFi was launched in the iTunes store last month; Android and web versions are planned for later this month. The app’s tagline? “We want to encourage people to fight back against poor Wi-Fi and 3G connections.”

Rotten WiFi is aimed squarely at false advertising. “All hotels say that they have good Wi-Fi,” as Jonkus puts it, but far fewer actually do. (Those of us on the East Coast of the United States might call this the Amtrak dynamic.) With Jonkus’s app, providers who merely check the Wi-Fi box will “be named and shamed.”

The app is driven by a one-click speed test, tied to actual places via Foursquare’s mapping capabilities. Users finding poor-performing connections are offered emails pre-populated with complaints. A test of my home network produced one, directed at Time Warner Cable, that simply said “Try harder.” That “watchdog” function, says Jonkus, is aimed at “pushing industries — like the hospitality industry, the event industry — to really make an effort to improve their Wi-Fi.”

But the first month of using the app turned up the fact that people were interested in finding non-rotten networks, too. And so, the next versions of the mobile app will point users to strong, healthy connections, and include the ability to pre-download a map of good local Wi-Fi connections before traveling. “It means,” says Jonkus, “that after landing in the airport you don’t need to turn on data roaming.”

Indeed, in some cases a good wireless connection is no farther than the airport itself. In a month of use, Rotten WiFi users tested some 60,000 wireless spots, including a handful of airport connections: “During beta testing, the Helsinki Airport did particularly well, with a peak download speed of 9.9 Mbps and upload speed of 9.8 Mbps.” Less impressive was Hong Kong’s airport: “The highest download speed was recorded to be a disappointing 685 kbps (kilobits per second).”

Rotten WiFi can be seen as part of a push to get Internet fans to take more ownership over the quality of the networks upon which they depend, and to get Wi-Fi purveyors to appreciate that the modern human would, if he or she easily could, factor speedy connectivity into decisions about places to travel, stay, or hold conferences.

“If you have good Wi-Fi service,” says Jonkus, “it means that more people will come to you.” And one can imagine Rotten WiFi scores baked into platforms like Yelp or Hipmunk. In the meantime, Rotten WiFi has taken to listing the wireless scores of hotels and airports on its Pinterest board. You’re going to want to head to the Riverside Hotel in Rīga, Latvia. I hear they have great Internet there.

Nancy Scola is a Washington, DC-based journalist whose work tends to focus on the intersections of technology, politics, and public policy. Shortly after returning from Havana she started as a tech reporter at POLITICO.

Tags: appsinternet access

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