The politicians have it all wrong. We are not addicted to foreign oil. We are addicted to Wi-Fi, the wireless networking technology that holds our youth in its wavy grip.

How bad is it? Seventy-five percent of American respondents to a survey sponsored by the Wi-Fi Alliance said that a week without Wi-Fi would leave grumpier than a week without coffee or tea. The poll, conducted by Wakefield Research, includes responses from more than 1,000 millennials (those between the ages 17 and 29) in the United States and 400 millennials in China, Japan and South Korea.

Two-thirds of respondents in the United States and four-fifths of those in China reported they spend more time on Wi-Fi devices than watching television. This distinction seems a bit blurry, however, since you can watch TV on your Wi-Fi connected smartphone as well as on a Wi-Fi-connected television.

And many who watch traditional TV use a Wi-Fi device — smartphone, laptop or iPad — in tandem to dig up tidbits about the shows and movies as they watch.

But Wi-Fi enables more than entertainment: Many millennials said that Wi-Fi was critical to maintaining relationships with both friends and family. In fact, 44 percent of American respondents said it would be difficult to stay in touch with family members without Wi-Fi. Personally, I find this bit off. My mother is one of those goofy people (Hi Mom!) who never bought a PC, and my niece will only communicate through cellphone texting.

So what do these millennials want from Wi-Fi that they’re not getting now?

“There is a desire for constant connectivity,” said Edgar Figueroa, chief executive officer of the Wi-Fi Alliance. “They want to connect while in a car, in a plane, while shopping.”

Wi-Fi is becoming increasingly available on airlines in the United States, with more than 1,200 planes expected to offer in-flight connectivity by year’s end. Cars remain a moving target, however, and connecting to Wi-Fi in a mall can be tricky because it’s difficult to determine which network to join.

Mr. Figueroa, who lives in Austin, Tex., says the city’s various shopping malls have taken a range of approaches to the shopping problem. Some malls offer a single Wi-Fi network throughout; in others, separate stores provide connections.

That’s not an optimal situation when you to need to quickly research pricing on that sweet-looking digital camera. Mr. Figueroa says the Wi-Fi Alliance is spearheading an initiative called Hotspot 2.0 that aims to help users find the best network, and then quickly and securely join it.

“It should be transparent, like cellular roaming,” he said.

Source: The New York Times