Monday, July 2, 2012

In China Even Free Internet is not Free

free internet kiosks at Shanghai Pudong International Airport

Upon arriving at Shanghai Pudong International Airport I saw the above scene. The Chinese words "免费上网" on the sign posts were unambiguous in their meaning: no payment was required to surf online. Yet another interpretation of the English translation "Free Internet" still caused a slight glimmer of hope to enter my mind.

So I checked a computer to see whether at this supposedly modern international airport one could access some of the world's most popular websites -- YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. I quickly found that China's Great Firewall was blocking these sites as usual. Somewhat ironically, the vast majority of international flights from the airport could take me to places where I would find no such censorship.

I was not at all surprised by what I found, but nonetheless the experience dampened the excitement of returning to Shanghai. Free Internet at an airport is wonderful to see. If only it were also free.

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