Hartlepool, UK: The world’s least connected wifi town

I was effing and blinding like a trooper on Tuesday evening.

Big time.

I was going absolutely NUTS.

I was in Hartlepool working. My colleague Thomas popped his head through the office door at about 6pm and asked if I wanted a lift back to the hotel. I weighed the options and decided that I should exit the office — it’s a good mental thing to do after a full day, I reckon — but that I would continue work on the internet later on.

I’d already eaten so Thomas dropped me off at the Grand Hotel in Hartlepool — distinguished by the fact it is not very. Not very grand, that is. How the website can refer to it as Hartlepool’s premier hotel, I don’t know. Still, it’s been taken over by new management so perhaps they’ll do something with it.

Suffice to say that it has no internet.


Not a jiffy. Not a byte of internet connectivity.

So I went and sat in the bar and obtained a bottle of Becks together with a mineral water.

I then proceeded to try and connect my laptop to the internet via my Nokia N95. Screw it. I don’t know WHAT the hell is going on. I just can’t get a bluetooth internet connection. Not with any of the FOUR devices I had on me.

Mounting frustration caused me to exit the hotel bar and take a walk down the road to the Yates.

If you’re an international reader, Yates is a bar chain in the UK synonymous with annoying cackling women wearing ridiculous and highly unsuitable clothing. (Sure, wear a crop top, but not with your four stomachs hanging out please.) Worse are the male inhabitants of Yates. Think Cool Water aftershave, knock-off French Connection sweatshirts and black faux leather shoes that — I KID YE NOT — are done up with velcro straps rather than laces.

However, I remembered that Yates has a itbox. Itboxes have a built in The Cloud wifi connection you see. I’ve written about The Cloud quite often. I have a tenner-a-month unlimited account with them which lets me access any The Cloud hotspot across the UK. Wickedly useful for stations and the like.

Last time I went into this Yates place, The Cloud connection was non operational. The SSID was available but you couldn’t connect. I phoned The Cloud support and the chap on the end of the phone asked me to get the ‘venue operator’ to restart the itbox. I did. It restarted. The connection was still class-F.

It was thus with a degree of trepidation that I approached the Yates. Hartlepool town centre post 5pm is like the set of 28 Days Later. It’s a fully featured town centre but, typically completely deserted.

I walked fast, with purpose and I clasped by Apple laptop and the rest of my gizmos close to my chest as I did so.

Outside Yates I wasn’t going to be tricked into walking in, unless I established if there was a working wifi connection. There is something rather depressing about walking into a ‘high concept’ bar such as Yates and finding your feet sticking to the floor. You’d think they’d clean the floors, eh?

I flipped out the N95 and tried to connect to the hotspot standing in the doorway.

Screw it.

It didn’t work.

Tried the E61i. Same problem. The SSID is broadcast but it wasn’t accepting any connections.

What is it with Hartlepool and public wifi?

My next GENIUS idea was to locate the Wetherspoons pub. Generally the domain of dribbling old menu busy sucking on a cheap pint, I also know that Wetherspoons have itboxes and thus, by extension, wifi connections.

I arrived at the Wetherspoons and was DELIGHTED to see the sign ‘Free 30 minutes wifi access with a purchase in association with The Cloud’ sticker on the door. GET IN.

I wandered inside. There were a few folk at the bar. I slipped out my N95 and did a wifi search.


You what?

I casually shifted over to the itbox and tried my E61i’s network detector. Nothing?


Screw it.

Screw it with BELLS on.

I walked straight out and decided to opt for the last ditch attempt at obtaining internet access in Hartlepool (apart from either buying a house and installing broadband or going back to the office).

The plan? McDonalds!

Every McDonalds in the country has a BT Openworld wifi service you see. It’s really useful if you absolutely, positively need to get online. There’s always a McDonalds around, right?

Exhibit A:

The McDonalds is a bit out of the town centre so I began the trek. The above photo is intended to demonstrate just how dead the town centre is. This same photo taken at midday would be filled with cars and human traffic. Note my lonely shadow.

My hopes were momentarily raised when I passed a ‘Sports Bar’. Oooh, I thought, they might have internet!

One lasting glance and I established they did not:


I didn’t even bother checking on my handset. The uber fat girl sat in the doorway persuaded me.

You know there’s no internet when the patrons of an establishment can’t even be arsed to stand up when they have to go out to smoke a cigarette.

Eventually I reached the golden arches:


With no small amount of anticipation I began to plan my work schedule. I anticipated spending maybe 1.5-2 hours online. I cued up tasks in my head. I ordered a mineral water and sat down, flipped out the laptop and waited for it to detected the BT Openzone SSID.



You guessed it.


No signal?

I could be heard uttering all manner of commentary under my breath, I tell you.

Butter me in jelly and call me Terry. What the hell is going on with Hartlepool’s public wifi?

Both The Cloud hotspots NON FUNCTIONAL?

The McDonalds hotspot screwed? Not even a damn SSID?


Screw it.

Screw it with BELLS ON.

I thought about getting a taxi back to the office.

I abandoned the idea.

It is with no small amount of geeky disgust and muchos annoyance that I just went back to my hotel and sat and stared at the wall.

I couldn’t even be bothered to phone The Cloud or BT Openzone to complain.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

11 replies on “Hartlepool, UK: The world’s least connected wifi town”

You sure the WiFi in your laptop was working?
(Been there, done that, got the red face to go with it.)

Nokia N95, Nokia E61i, Nokia N73 and HTC Touch couldn’t find any wifi connection, nor could my laptop!

Dude! You need to get your technology sorted. I don’t want to have to replace you with the spotty 14 year old next door as my wireless tech swami 🙂

I had a similar situation on vacation in Utah in the United States. I was traveling with my wife, my cousin and his wife. After checking into a hotel that supposedly had wifi we tried local restaurants including McDonalds and a bar, in the end the hotel the restaurants and the bar all failed us. We ended up moving to a different hotel so my cousin could get work done.

Now he has a broadband card to put in the laptop for access.

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