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Location: Hamilton Square, New Jersey, United States

Tax guy, host & producer of the Consumerism Commentary Podcast, former co-host of the Wall Street Journal E-Report

Monday, June 26, 2006

Unexpected wireless internet access rocks

As a frequent traveler who's also a computer geek, I've learned to take the good with the bad when it comes to internet access on the road. I lug my work laptop with me everywhere I go and hope that there's a remote chance that I can surf the web in my spare time. Everything comes with me...a spare laptop battery, external floppy drive and a thirty foot spool of phone line (I got to use every inch of it once in Las Vegas)

I'm happy to say that I can get connected about 95% of the time. Since this is a company laptop, there's software installed on here for a global ISP that we use. It's extremely impressive...I'm very rarely in a city where the internet isn't a local phone call away (although I admittedly haven't left the USA). It certainly beats carrying around an emergency AOL CD (which I still do anyway).

But, like most dial-up connections, connecting is often painful. Hotels are usually crap shoots and too many times I've had to deal with bad phone lines resulting in numerous, repeated dropped connections. I remember one place I stayed where checking my email was a painstaking ritual of dialing, connecting, call dropping after 2:11 minutes, redialing, reconnecting, call dropping after 5:32 minutes, re-redialing, re-reconnecting, call dropping after 3:41 minutes, rinse, repeat.

But I'm happy to say that things are getting better. Although dial-up is still prevalent, I'm seeing more and more places that are going wireless. Most places have the routers in their lobbies, which makes sense since that's where their office equipment is. Sometimes you can get lucky and hop on it from your room if it's close enough. If not, a quick escape to the lobby is required, which usually isn't too bad considering the dial-up alternative (free coffee's a good draw too).

But every now and then, I hit the mother lode. I'm staying at the Powhatan Plantation in Virginia this week. I was a bit suspicious of the internet access here when an email I sent last week inquired about it went unanswered. So when I arrive here yesterday, I follow my normal ritual of checking the price for local calls. Sometimes they're free, but a lot of the big corporations realized that laptops users were taking advantage of it in the late nineties and, as a result, starting charging for them...sometimes charging 1-900-like rates for them ($1 the first minute, 25 cents for each minute after). So I look at their rates and see they charge 25 cents per local call. Not bad. Not free, but a quarter a call isn't so bad as long as the phone lines in the room are good.

So I set up the laptop this morning, attach the phone line to the data port on the phone, and boot up. Before I can even launch the ISP software, a wireless network is detected. THREE of them. And I'm nowhere near the main lobby...this is a resort I'm at and my building is about a quarter mile away from the main lobby. Apparently Powhatan's got their shit together with wireless access. It appears I occasionally get redirected to ITG's homepage...who apparently is the company behind this access...but I can deal with that.

So here I sit a happy man, blogging, checking my fantasy sports teams & email, all while streaming Howard Stern from the Sirius website. Life is good.

Oh yeah, we're going to Busch Garden today too.

2 Comments:

Blogger M-D said...

Admittedly, I don't travel for work very often, but the few hotels I've stayed in have all had some form of high speed access, be it wireless or via Ethernet cable. As you said, sometimes it's free (many of the Marriott business travel brands, like Courtyard and Springhill Suites, offer free high-speed), sometimes it's not (I've paid between $9.95 and $12.99 a day in some hotels), but it's usually there.

In fact, when Darren and I took the Big Road Trip to Texas 2 years ago, the only hotels we stayed in that didn't have some form of high-speed access were Farifield Inns in Cleveland OH and Charleston WV. Although I imagine access is more limited in rural locations...and Charleston is as rural as they come.

6/26/2006 10:39 PM  
Blogger Doobie said...

We spend a lot of time up in the Berkshires/Vermont area and, let me tell you, once you get up in northern Vermont you're surprised some places have indoor plumbing let alone high speed internet access.

6/27/2006 5:31 AM  

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