Internet in the tube: what it means for social media

Alex Webb

Tube map on an iPhone

Going underground: Now you can be wired up in the tube.

July 7th 2005 is often cited as the date when the man on the street became the news correspondent. The BBC received 22,000 e-mails and text messages about the tube and bus bombings, whilst 300 photos came flying into the organization’s e-mail inboxes.

So when it was announced this week that free public wi-fi was to be trialled at Charing Cross station, it seemed that the luddites’ last urban bastion was finally being broken down, opening up to the spleen of social media one of Londoners’ favourite gripes: the tube.

The service will for six months be available in the ticket hall and on the Northern and Bakerloo line platforms at the station, and it is hoped that it will ultimately be rolled out across the London underground network.

On the one hand the move will make communication far easier in the event of an emergency, with travellers able to convey happenings in the bowels of London far more readily than before. On the other hand, and on a far more mundane, daily basis, it will also unleash a torrent of tweets as commuters carp about their delayed, crowded or otherwise unsatisfactory train service.

7/7 demonstrated the importance of the citizen journalist, and how great a role user-generated content play in reporting news, but the much overdue introduction of internet connectivity into the very depths of London will again reveal what so many use their internet voice to do: complain.

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