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Wi-Fi Hotspots

March 29, 2010

In my recent travels, I have had a harder time than expected connecting to the internet (I know, my life is hard).  My computer isn’t at fault, but it seems that Wi-Fi isn’t as readily accessible as I had thought.  Whether you are traveling or visiting a technology un-savvy family member, there are increasingly more Wi-Fi options available.

I had always thought that the ubiquitous coffee giant, Starbucks, was an easy place to to access the internet.  Turns out as consumers stopped paying $4 for a cup of coffee during the recession, Starbucks had to cash in in other ways, including by partnering with AT&T and charging for internet access.  Frequently it is possible to find unlocked networks in neighboring residences, but this isn’t the safest option no the most reliable.  For $3.99, you can have two hours of internet.  Not a great price, but it is competitive.

Boingo offers other internet options for low monthly rates, including $9.95 a month for unlimited Wi-Fi on your computer as well as a host of other packages.  This might not be relevant for most of you, but would be for travelers.  Boingo claims to be the world’s largest Wi-Fi network offering connections everywhere from hotels to airports to Starbucks (allowing users to bypass the AT&T option).  Today Boingo announced that they will offer Wi-Fi options for the iPad that will again allow users to skip out on AT&T’s pricey packages.

FedEx/Kinko’s, now FedEx Office, offers pay by the minutes options.  While these rates are not competitive, FedEx Office offers convenience for working travelers.  It has printing, scanning and faxing options that, for a price, bring the office to where ever you are.  These are located throughout the country.

Finally, new technology allows you to turn your smart phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot via tethering.  I have been wanting to do a post about tethering because of it’s enormous possibilities that may eradicate the need for traditional internet sources.  Tethering turns your phone or PDA into a sort of modem so that you can use the internet connect-ability from your phone on your computer.  Thereby “tethering” your computer to your phone.  Depending on your service, you can tether several computers at once to a single phone.  There is little need for a modem when you can tether.

However, a word of caution: many user agreements require a subscription to tether (something like $40 a month) and if you were to tether without said subscription, your service providers could not only take away your service, but also charge you a hefty bill (think $1,000).

If all else fails, just surf the net on your smart phone.  It might not be the same experience and certainly will drain your battery, but is reliable and convenient.

Even though it may be frustrating not having internet access, there are possibilities at your finger tips.  Happy travels!

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