At the beginning of August 2012, Walt Disney World quietly announced that it was to be the first theme park in Florida to offer free wireless internet (Wi-Fi) access to its guests as part of its “NextGen” initiative. With the dramatic increase in the use of smart phones/mobile apps and the number of overseas visitors to Florida this is going to be a real bonus.
Disney has stated that it is available to customers using AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and MetroPCS cell phones but it seems to work for visitors on different networks as well.
Not unexpectedly the first Walt Disney World park to offer the free Wi-Fi was Disney’s Magic Kingdom but this was quickly followed by Disney’s Epcot and Typhoon Lagoon towards the end of August and then Disney’s Hollywood Studios in early October, Animal Kingdom in November and Downtown Disney in December.
It is expected that the service will be rolled out to Blizzard Beach plus Downtown Disney by early 2013. A few months back Disney rolled out free Wi-Fi at its Walt Disney World Resort hotels.
To access the internet from one of the parks, just search for a Wi-Fi network called “Public Space Guest WiFi (Disney)”, join it and accept the usage terms and conditions and you’ll then be able to tweet, update Facebook, browse the internet and run the many theme park attraction mobile apps taking advantage of the real-time wait times that typically require internet network access.
Once you have “logged in” you do not need to login again whilst in the park. The service is filtered so it does not give you unlimited access to the entire internet, some sites will be blocked.
Like a lot of public Wi-Fi networks though, do not expect super fast speeds. Initial tests have given variable results in terms of both connectivity and speed and of course this will be influenced by how busy the park is and your proximity to the Wi-Fi hotspots. Generally reception is good inside the shops and restaurants but not inside some of the attractions themselves as you might expect with wireless technology.
To access the internet from one of the Disney Resort hotels, search for a network called “In-Room Guest WiFi (Disney)”.
As part of the “NextGen” project, Disney has also released a new mobile app called My Disney Experience which builds on the original Mobile Magic App and they are also experimenting with a new FASTPASS system using RFID technology.
Whilst many of the theme park mobile apps will work without a data connection, to get the best use from them including real time wait times, you need an internet connection.
Using mobile (cell) phones to access the internet and view emails whilst abroad can be very expensive. In the EU legislation has been brought in to cap data charges but no such legislation exists if you are visiting the USA. The charges for a UK visitor using data services in the USA can typically be as much as £7.50 per mb of data if you are accessing the internet via the normal cell carriers.
Having access to free Wi-Fi means no charges for reading those emails, browsing the internet or running those mobile apps.
Note that if you have an iPhone or an Android device then there is a simple Network setting which turns data roaming off. You are strongly advised to turn off data roaming whilst abroad to avoid running up expensive bills.