Pay-to-Play VPN is a Glimpse of the Future
The many intense contradictions of China are hard to avoid. On crowded city streets, dusty bicycles and push-carts compete for space with import sleek, six-figure sports cars from Europe. Giant, multi-story construction projects border one-floor dwellings that have stood their ground for many centuries. Moreover, the country’s ornate and timeless beauty is often shrouded by a thick layer of air pollution which makes for perpetually overcast skies.
Also hard to avoid are the challenges presented by the Great Firewall. While future-focused startups are using online technology to create a world-class innovation economy in China, much of what the West can freely access on the Internet is blocked from daily view.
In my last visit to this country, I had no problems reading my various email accounts. Since then, however, gmail accounts are no longer viewable. This development caused me a few minutes of panic when I first logged onto my laptop upon arriving in Beijing. However, a few minutes later when I surfed onto my favorite US-based sports site, the very first pop-up ad touted the benefits of a subscription VPN service. I clicked on this pop-up add, paid the small monthly fee and five minutes later my gmail account was accessible again.
I’m happy to have been able to re-connect with my accounts via this convenient VPN service. I’m less happy that this monthly pay-to-play approach is likely the model that more global Internet users will need to embrace if they want full web access in the future.