When U.S. District Court summons D.C. residents for jury duty, it sends a letter with the potential juror’s number and a list of instructions. It also includes an enticement to show up: free Internet in the jurors lounge.
Last Thursday, four jurors attempted to wait out their civic duty online. But when they plugged in their laptops, they found the Web to be as accessible as a free lunch in the cafeteria. If potential jurors want to get online, they were told, they’d have to do it by way of a dial-up connection in a nearby room. No one jumped on the offer.
According to Nick Blend, director of the federal court’s IT department, the court had tried to contract out for installation of WiFi last year. But, Blend says, “it just turned out to be too much money.”
Sheldon Snook, a court spokesperson, says that the court’s “realistic” plans call for wireless service by spring. “We decided to handle it internally rather than go through an outside contractor,” he says. The court is hoping to make WiFi available in both the jurors lounge and the cafeteria. “It’s for the convenience of the jurors whose lives are dependent on the Internet,” Snook says.