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Free Tube Wi-Fi extended into 2013 by Virgin Media

Free Wi-Fi on the Tube will continue to be available to all until the end of 2012 at the very least.

The best things in life are free -- especially when that free thing allows you to catch up on the latest tech news from deep below the surface of our bustling capital when the Central Line's borked yet again. Londoners and tourists alike will be thrilled to hear Virgin Media is extending its free Tube Wi-Fi until the end of 2012 at the very least.

The free Wi-Fi network launched this summer, allowing the froth and fizz of Olympic fever that flooded the city streets to flow down escalators and lift shafts onto the platforms of 72 different Underground stations.

Initially, access to the network was only supposed to remain free to Virgin Media home broadband customers after the sporting festivities had concluded, but London folk may have noticed that gratis Wi-Fi has yet to be wrestled away from their busy thumbs.

I spoke to Virgin Media and was told the reasoning behind extending the offer is simpler than old-fashioned benevolence or new-fangled marketing tactics. The process for transferring customers currently using the service for free over to the paid-for version of the network is still being finalised. Virgin is also in talks with other home broadband providers about including Tube Wi-Fi in their own packages after this year.

As such, Wi-Fi on the Underground will definitely remain free to everyone until the end of 2012, but could easily continue into 2013. Fingers crossed negotiations take a few more years to conclude -- long live free subterranean Facebooking.

The good news doesn't end there, though -- Virgin wants to expand the network beyond the 72 platforms and concourses it currently services, with an eye on a total of 120 of London's 270 Tube stations. Sadly there are no plans to let Wi-Fi coverage seep into tunnels, so you'll still need to take your cue from the "doors closing" announcement to press send on your tweet.

The service has unsurprisingly proved remarkably popular, with over 1 million tweets, Facebook posts, emails sent and Web pages accessed during its busiest 24-hour period.

I personally find the Virgin Media splash page a little annoying to jump past and have many a time been whisked into a tunnel before successfully releasing some wisecrack into the Twittersphere, but the glee of the very first subterranean tweets I saw still resonates.

Have you been busy tweetin' and streamin' and emailin' from Tube stations? Should services like this continue to be free, or would you be happy to pay for them? Trundle down the tracks to the comments section to let us know or hop over to our Facebook page -- just remember to the mind the gap.